The Lives of Others star talks about her time in Jerusalem and the need to tell second world war stories.

German actress Martina Gedeck is known for standout performances in acclaimed features including Oscar winner The Lives Of Others, Oscar nominee The Baader Meinhof Complex and hit comedy Mostly Martha.

Now the actress has a different role — juror — during her first trip to Jerusalem, serving on the Israeli Feature Film jury. “This is a young and modern festival,” she enthuses. “I find it very exciting. The whole city is a fascinating one.”

Gedeck knows about fascinating and challenging cities, having grown up in Berlin in the 1970s.

“We know about walls and a heavy security presence. Being enclosed became normal and natural. It felt harmless to us but, of course, it wasn’t. When the wall came down, we felt free. But this is a different situation here, of course,” she says.

Gedeck has never shied away from challenging roles. Portraying radical terrorist Ulrike Meinhof in The Baader Meinhoff Complex stands out as a particularly challenging undertaking. “It was difficult because I had to get inside the mind of this complicated and very radical woman but to keep a distance from her dogmatism at the same time. It was an excellent but sad experience. She is a harsh character. She began as a soft woman, who was raised near a concentration camp. Her father was a priest. Both herparents died by the time she was a teenager.”

Understandably, Gedeck continues to be in demand for directors. Earlier this year she wrapped on Mika Kaurismaki’s period drama The Girl King.

“Working with Mika was an extraordinary artistic experience,” she says. “He doesn’t say much. He’s very precise in what he wants. There was a lot of freedom for me. I play the mother of Queen Kristina. It gave me a chance to play someone I’ve never played before. She’s always furious, mad. It was more theatrical than normal. I had tremendous dresses and wigs.”

More recently she finished shooting on a three-part German TV special Tannback, about a small town divided between East Germany and West Germany, set in 1945-52. Later this summer she will shoot Jane Ainscough and Christoph Silber’s adaptation of Hape Kerkeling’s bestselling comedy book Ich Bin Dann Mal Weg from director Julia von Heinz (Hanna’s Journey).

In the autumn she expects to star alongside Thomas Kretschmann in Arsen A Ostojic’s Second World War drama Man In The Box, about an Austrian family who take a Jewish doctor into hiding.

“I’m really looking forward to this film,” explains the actress. “The Second World War remains a common theme for everyone in Germany. They are stories that have to be told.”