Learn German with the films of director Christian Petzold!

Learn German with Films of Christian Petzold

Some filmmakers are notable for working with the same cast and crew on multiple projects. Maybe someone is a muse. Maybe it is the safety and comfort of a well-oiled working relationship. Or maybe it is something else. Director and writer Christian Petzold is one of those filmmakers. Nina Hoss, Benno Fürmann, Ronald Zehrfeld, Paula Beer, and Franz Rogowski are all actors with whom Petzold has worked on multiple films. And given the tone and intimacy that he captures with his films, the formula seems to be working.

This month, get to know filmmaker Christian Petzold and practice those German language skills!

Get to Know Christian Petzold

Christian Petzold was born on September 14, 1960, in Hilden, West Germany. He grew up nearby in Haan, in western Germany not far from Düsseldorf. By the early 1980s, he had moved to Berlin to pursue his love of the performing arts. He first studied at the theater and German at the Free University of Berlin before later attending Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin.

He first started out making short films before moving on to films made for television. Petzold’s big-screen debut came with The State I Am In in 2000. The film earned several awards and attention for its director.

Learn German with the film Jerichow from director Christian Petzold!


Based loosely on James M. Cain’s novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, the 2008 film Jerichow follows Benno Fürmann as Thomas. An Afghan war veteran who is a bit of a loner, Thomas is a man of not many words.

While back home for his mother’s funeral, he sets up home in the quiet town. Shortly thereafter he meets Ali, the owner of a chain of snack bars who is without a driver’s license after some alcohol-related offenses. Thomas quickly becomes Ali’s driver and, thereafter, begins an affair with Ali’s wife, Laura (portrayed by Nina Hoss). They’re playing with a dangerous secret, especially considering that Ali’s not shy about abusing his wife.

Learn German with the film Barbara from director Christian Petzold!


Another Petzold film starring Nina Hoss, Barbara is a drama set in 1980s East Germany.

In the 2012 film, Hoss portrays the title character, Barbara Wolff. A doctor, Wolff had been working at a hospital in East Berlin. She is put under surveillance, however, after she applies to leave East Germany. She is punished for her attempt to leave when she is sent to work in a rural hospital along the Baltic Sea.

Notably, the film won Petzold an award for Best Director at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival.

Learn German with the film Undine from director Christian Petzold!


Paula Beer stars as Undine in the 2020 film of the same name. She suffers a personal setback when Johannes, the man she is having an affair with, decides to end things. She decides to play up the ancient myth of Undine, a water nymph. The human Undine tells Johannes she will have to kill him for leaving her.

When Undine begins a new relationship with Christoph (portrayed by Franz Rogowski), a professional diver. When he takes her diving with him, the water has a profound impact on Undine.

Practice practice practice! Discover other great German language actors and actresses previously featured.

Photos are courtesy Arne Höhne. Presse + Öffentlichkeit. Top photo by Marco Krüger. All other photos by Christian Schulz. This post contains affiliate links.

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