In 2004, German actor Ulrich Matthes garnered acclaim for his portrayal of the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels in Der Untergang. Less than two decades later he revisited World War II with a striking portrayal of Adolf Hitler in Munich: The Edge of War. But before, during, and after those films, Matthes has had a career full of variety that has seen him frequently, almost prolifically, performing on the stage and providing German dubs for Hollywood films (he is the go-to voice for Kenneth Branagh).
With so much to offer, now seems the perfect time to get to know Ulrich Matthes and learn German with film!
Get to Know Ulrich Matthes
Ulrich Matthes was born on May 9, 1959, in West Berlin. His father, Günter, was a journalist for Tagesspiegel and his older brother, Dieter, would also go on to become an actor.
Matthes got his acting start early. Already as a pre-teen, he had won roles on television and did German language dubbing for foreign television shows, including The Waltons. Despite his successes in the entertainment industry, he continued pursuing education. At the Free University of Berlin, he enrolled in German and English studies. However, it was a meeting with the actor Martin Held that encouraged him to study acting with Else Bongers.
In the 1980s, Matthes dedicated himself to the stage. He performed at theaters across Germany. By the early 1990s, he began appearing more frequently on both television and in films.
Winterschläfer (or Winter Sleepers) is set deep in Bavaria in Berchtesgaden just after Christmas. In the film, Theo is a struggling farmer. When he goes to take his horse to the veterinarian, his young daughter stows away in the horse trailer. Distracted while driving, Theo gets involved in a car accident. Neither Theo nor the other driver, René (portrayed by Matthes), are hurt, but Theo’s daughter is seriously hurt.
With his daughter in a coma and close to death, Theo becomes obsessed with finding René and seeking revenge.
Der neunte Tage
Legendary German director Volker Schlöndorff helms the 2004 The Ninth Day (Der neunte Tag), based on the diary of Father Jean Bernard. In the film, Matthes stars as Henri Kremer, a Catholic priest who is imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp. Kremer’s experiences in the camp are horrific but suddenly, he is given nine days leave.
Kremer uses his leave to return to his hometown in Luxembourg. But an SS officer (portrayed by August Diehl) makes it clear that Kremer should convince the local bishop to cooperate with the Nazis. Kremer is left with the difficult decision of whether or not to betray his church and faith.
Director Oliver Hirschbiegel depicts the final days of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany in 2004’s Der Untergang. Hitler, portrayed by Bruno Ganz, is surrounded by some of his ministers and military leadership. But he seems unwilling to accept the inevitable and lashes out at his advisors, including propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels (portrayed by Ulrich Matthes) and Albert Speer (portrayed by Heino Ferch), Nazi Germany’s Minister of Armaments and War Production as well as a close ally of Hitler’s.
Der Untergang received critical acclaim. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and ranked #48 on Empire’s 100 Best Films of World Cinema.
Practice practice practice! Discover other great German language actors and actresses previously featured.
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