In mourning drama narcosis there are some hard scenes in which struggling widow Merel bluntly pushes her young children away from her. When director Martijn de Jong saw during the casting for his film how actress Thekla Reuten turned down an emotional request from her film son, he knew that his lead actress was sitting in front of him. “You saw that she rejected her child, but also that there was a bubbling volcano under it, love that held her character back.”
Director Elbert van Strien cast Reuten as the lead actress for his philosophical horror film marionette (2020) for adding “human warmth” to its lead character who is “essentially a” control freak is.”
Triple Golden Calf winner Thekla Reuten (47) has a penchant for strong, independent women with a scratch on their soul, she said in an interview – she can give these kinds of characters a remarkable layering. Although she ensures that she is not only associated with traumatized, hard aunts and heavy drama by taking on very different roles. That’s how she played two years ago marionette a psychiatrist who loses his grip on reality, but in the same year also a maladjusted, adolescent teacher in a comedy series tessa and a cartoon character-like villain in the hit series Warrior Nun on Netflix.
Early on in her acting career, Reuten starred in films that were nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Everyone famous! (2000) and The Twins (2002). She may be able to add a third title to this soon: narcosis is the Dutch Oscar entry.
How does Reuten win her very diverse roles? The basis is her acting talent, but in addition, the actress is a huge perfectionist and she prepares meticulously for castings and recordings, say Dutch directors who have worked with her. Van Strien: „For marionette she wanted to discuss in detail all the meanings and subtext of her role and the story.” According to the director, her analytical approach does not lead to Reuten getting “too much in her head”. She can act better ‘in the moment’, so she knows when to use which emotions to make characters believable.
Reuten also did research outside the script to develop Merel’s character, says Martijn de Jong. In narcosis her lover disappears after a professional dive, his body is never found. “Thekla did their own research to understand the risks involved in diving. In addition, she spent endless amounts of time with the clothing designer, for example looking for boots that ‘matched’ her character. Or she went to stay in the house she had renovated with her husband in the movie. She really wanted to feel ‘the history’ of her character with the place where it takes place.”
Sporadically, Reuten’s perfectionism also works against her, De Jong explains. For example, if the children with whom the actress had to play were upside down on the couch because they themselves were not in the picture. “Thekla found something like this difficult, for her the correct setting and actors who provide good counterplay are important to get ‘in the moment’.”
Also read: the review of Narcosis (●●●●)
From early in her career, Reuten has played small and large roles in many international projects, such as opposite George Clooney in thriller The American (2010) and starred in Red Sparrow (2018) with Jennifer Lawrence. She has also been cast in German and Italian films and series and is currently in a project of the Russo brothers, known for superhero films for Marvel.
How does the actress realize those international ambitions? “There are many good actors around, but it’s about getting you on the lists of casting directors,” explains Van Strien. „Since the Oscar nomination for The Twins in 2004, Thekla has both a US and UK agent who have access to major international productions.” In addition, she speaks fluent languages such as English, Italian or German and is difficult to pin down in terms of age and background, so she can be used for many purposes. Reuten’s father, a Dutch priest from Heerlen, got to know her mother, the daughter of Catholic Italians who had emigrated from Tuscany, in Amsterdam.
According to Menno Meyjes, who directed Reuten in The dinner (2013) and the Reunion (2015), in which she plays women who are more dangerous than they appear at first sight, the actress has a ‘starquality’ factor. “She pulls the camera towards her; you keep looking at her.” What helps is that, according to Meyjes, Reuten dares to play modestly. “That is only possible if you have talent and that talent has been continuously rewarded. As a result, self-confidence grows and you know as an actor: it will be fine. That is different from players who constantly think: ‘Now I have to make it happen’.”
In conversations about narcosis the actress also talks with remarkable sobriety and self-assurance about her character’s psychic abilities; Merel can visit the dead. De Jong: “Irrespective of whether this is really possible or not, Thekla has found that clairsentience can help people after a death, so she did not want it to be portrayed as laughing. This may be partly due to its Italian roots, in southern European countries mysticism is an easier part of life and death.”
Van Strien also noticed that Reuten’s religious roots were an advantage in his thriller in which the supernatural plays a major role. “Because of the Catholicism in her life, she had a lot of connection to the deeper, existential questions her character struggles with.”
A version of this article also appeared in the October 19, 2022 newspaper