ANNA GEISLEROVÁ: The body can’t tell feigned tears from real ones

“My biggest influence is David Lynch. His films showed me a type of acting that was totally new to me,” says Anna Geislerová. The actress, bearer of a record five Czech Lions as well as numerous prizes from film festivals around the world, has come to Art Film Fest to accept the Actor’s Mission Award.

When you’re at a film shoot and the camera’s rolling, do you think about your viewers?

When I’m on camera, it’s as if I was acting in front of an open window. Anyone at all can watch me from outside. It could be a single person; it could be a hundred – it doesn’t matter. The connection between the performer and the viewer is ever-present and always comes first.

Except there is no audience on set. It isn’t like at the theatre, where actors perform before a live audience. Do you see the crew, for example, as your audience?

The crew is, of course, the first audience. And a highly demanding one at that. After all, they often see under the lid; they know what goes in the soup. If you’re bluffing, they won’t buy it.

Where do you look for inspiration to engage audiences?

I think every actor is an ardent observer, a voyeur and a bit of a thief, stealing from others’ lives. You can find inspiration anywhere and in anything – a cute speech impediment, an odd pair of glasses, a funny piece of clothing. But an actor equally draws on their own difficult life. And this is all rounded out by long, philosophical conversations. With directors. With screenwriters. And with barmen, too.

How do you pick roles?

Based on the screenplay, my mood and above all the people working on the film or series.

Such as the great filmmaking duo Jan Hřebejk and Petr Jarchovský, whom you so often work with?

I adore those two. I get jealous when they make a film without me. Everything we’ve done together has had a major significance in my life. And always will.

Some actresses and actors say the lives and emotions of their characters influence their own personal lives as well. Do you take anything from your characters, or do you clearly separate them from your own life?

The stories don’t stay with me, but the emotions do. The body can’t tell feigned tears from real ones. And so it experiences the stress as if it were its own. All the grief one acts out leaves real wrinkles behind. But the joy counts for something, too.

What mood does the Actor’s Mission Award put you in, now that you’re here at Art Film Fest to receive it?

I like prizes. For me they’re a sign that a large group of people agree that I do my job well. And that’s enough to make me happy. Accepting an award is lovely. Nothing less, nothing more. It’s a pleasure.