Pseudonym: At one time, spelled first name "Nastassia." Nationality: German. Born: Nastassja Nakszynski in Berlin, 24 January 1961; daughter of the actor Klaus Kinski. Education: Attended schools in Rome, Munich, Caracas, and New York; studied acting with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Family: Married Ibrahim Moussa, 1984 (separated), children: Aljosha, Sonja Leila; daughter with Quincy Jones, Kenya Niambi Jones. Career: 1974—film debut in Falsche Bewegung; 1976—first English-language film, To the Devil a Daughter; 1980—international fame with Tess; 1980s—established Leila production and distribution company. Awards: Deutscher Filmpreis for Acting, for Spring Symphony, 1983. Agent: c/o William Morris, 151 El Camino Drive, Beverly Hills, CA, 90212, U.S.A.
Films as Actress:
Falsche Bewegung (The Wrong Move) (Wenders) (as Mignon)
To the Devil a Daughter (Sykes) (as Catherine Beddows); Reifezeugnis (For Your Love Only) (Petersen) (as Sina Wolf)
Cosi come sei (Stay as You Are) (Lattuada) (as Francesca); The Passion Flower Hotel (Leidenschaftliche Bluemchen; Boarding School) (Farwagi) (as Deborah Collins)
Tess (Polanski) (as Tess Durbeyfield)
One from the Heart (Coppola) (as Leila); Cat People (Schrader) (as Irena Gallier)
Exposed (Toback) (as Elizabeth Carlson); La Lune dans le caniveau (The Moon in the Gutter) (Beineix) (as Loretta Channing)
Unfaithfully Yours (Zieff) (as Daniella Eastman); The Hotel New Hampshire (Richardson) (as Susie the Bear); Paris, Texas (Wenders) (as Jane); Maria's Lovers (Konchalovsky) (as Maria Bosic)
Harem (Joffe) (as Diane); Revolution (Hudson) (as Daisy McConnahay); Fruhlingssinfonie (Spring Symphony; Symphony of Love) (Schamoni) (as Clara Wieck)
Maladie d'amour (Malady of Love) (Deray) (as Juliette); Intervista (Fellini)
Magdalene (Stille nacht; Silent Night) (Teuber) (as Magdalene)
Acque di primavera(Torrents of Spring) (Skolimowski) (as Maria Nikolaevna Polozov)
Il sole anche di notte (Night Sun) (Tavianis) (as Cristina); Il Segreto (The Secret) (Pachard)
L'Envers du decors: Portrait de Pierre Guffroy (Behind the Scenes: A Portrait of Pierre Guffroy) (Salis—doc) (as herself); The Insulted and the Injured; Dawn (Maselli)
In Camera Mia (Martino); La Bionda (The Blonde) (Rubini) (as Christine)
Faraway, So Close (In Weiter Ferne, So Nah!) (Wenders) (as Raphaela)
Crackerjack (Mazzo—for TV) (as K. C.); Terminal Velocity (Sarafian) (as Chris/Krista Morrow)
The Foolish Heart
One Night Stand (Figgis) (as Karen); Father's Day (Reitman) (as Collette Andrews); Bella Mafia (Greene—mini for TV) (as Sophia Luciano)
Susan's Plan (Landis) (as Susan); Playing by Heart (Carroll) (as Melanie); Savior (Antonijevic) (as Maria); Little Boy Blue (Tibaldi) (as Kate West); Your Friends & Neighbors (LaBute) (as Cheri)
The Lost Son (Menges) (as Deborah Spitz); The Intruder (Bailey) (as Badge Muller)
The Magic of Marciano (Barbieri) (as Katie); Red Letters (Battersby) (as Lydia Davis)
By KINSKI: articles—
Interview, in Cinema (West Germany), November 1979.
Interview with Jodie Foster, in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1982.
Interview, in Photoplay (London), September 1983.
Interviews, in Première (Paris), November 1985 and June 1987.
"And Now for . . . Nastassja Kinski," interview with Sheila Benson, in Interview (New York), December 1993.
"Kith and Kinski," interview with Tom Charity, in Time Out (London), 22 June 1994.
On KINSKI: book—
Sinclair, Marianne, Hollywood Lolita: The Nymphet Syndrome in the Movies, London, 1988.
On KINSKI: articles—
Biskind, P., "Will Overexposure Spoil Nastassia Kinski?," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), April 1982.
Current Biography 1984, New York, 1984.
Hibbin, S., "Nastassia Kinski," in Films and Filming (London), June 1984.
Film Français (Paris), 11 March 1988.
Lovece, Frank, "The Kinski Report," in Entertainment Weekly, 7 October 1994.
Mahrenholz, S., "Konturen, an denen sich Phantasien entzuenden," in EPD Film (Frankfurt/Main), February 1996.
Stars, Summer 1996.
* * *
After very auspicious beginnings—having been discovered by Wim Wenders and elevated to stardom by Roman Polanski—Nastassja Kinski has so far had a less distinguished film career than a great many critics and early fans had predicted. Questions of talent aside, one likely reason why Kinski did not quickly become the next Ingrid Bergman or Audrey Hepburn (among the classic stars to whom she was compared) was her choice of projects after Tess, her breakthrough film. Her choices were admirably adventuresome and varied, and often for important directors, but most of the resulting films were considered highly flawed or at least controversial, though Kinski's performances were often cited as saving graces rather than part of the problem.
Following her debut as the deaf-mute Mignon figure in Wenders's update of Wilhelm Meister, and various European films that established her as a charming, sexually provocative teenager, Tess introduced Kinski to a much wider audience. These viewers saw a face with remarkably large eyes and lips (the wide mouth more prominent in later films), and heard a unique voice, with slurred, almost warbled sounds, especially the vowels preceding "r"s (not to be explained simply by her adoption of a Dorset accent). Much of the film called for her to be silent, eyes downcast, suggesting an inwardness, a soul perplexed and suffering. (Almost nothing is shown of the passionate side of Hardy's Tess, as if a subtext of Polanski's affair with the teenaged Kinski were allowed to suffice. Significantly, one never even overhears Tess's quarrel with Alec before she murders him, as reported in the novel.)
Kinski's first American role, a supporting one as the tightropewalking vamp in One from the Heart, called for her to be little more than odd and exotic. A much more challenging role was the lead in Paul Schrader's Cat People, calling for a more intense version of the persona from Tess: sweetly innocent, miserably victimized, yet latently erotic and violent. As a woman who finds that she turns into a black panther when she has sex, Kinski has the appropriate haunted look, and of course the unusual facial features and voice that sounds American yet with some untraceable accent. She is convincingly shy and terror-stricken, less convincingly demonic in the weakly motivated swimming-pool scene. Today Cat People may seem repellently voyeuristic, without a trace of the ironic distance one finds in, say, Hitchcock, and tiresome in its "take" on the myth of the virgin woman becoming a deadly animal when sexually aroused, but it made Kinski more of a star.
Her next roles, in Exposed and The Moon in the Gutter, allowed her to play less passive women, though hardly more in control of their destinies; but both films received notoriously negative reviews for directorial pretentiousness. By comparison, her portrayal of Clara Wieck in Spring Symphony was notably conservative and innocuous, like the film itself. Unfaithfully Yours at least demonstrated that Kinski could handle light comedy in charming fashion (here with an Italian accent).
But in 1984 Kinski achieved two major performances. Maria's Lovers, a curious fantasia on motifs from Tess, features her as the virginal bride of a young World War II veteran who proves to be impotent (only with the woman he loves) and deserts her; later she is seduced and made pregnant by a traveling musician, but consequently reunited with her husband. Kinski, her hair pulled back to reveal a less glamorized version of her striking features, is allowed more vivacity and intense emotional expression by director Andrei Konchalovsky than Polanski had permitted Tess: most notable are a tender scene with the father-in-law (Robert Mitchum) and an outburst at her unfaithful though tormented husband (John Savage).
In Paris, Texas, 90 minutes go by before Kinski, as the object of the protagonist's quest, is glimpsed on the screen, except in a home movie, and another ten minutes before she looks directly at the screen (through a peepshow window, the viewpoint of her estranged husband [Harry Dean Stanton]) and begins to speak, in a Texas accent that is not flawless but still acceptable, almost touching. Asked in Film Quarterly about Kinski's public image as a "nymphet," Wim Wenders, who conceived the part for her, said that she fitted into the film's "subtext . . . which is a man insisting on a certain image of a woman. . . . I've followed Nastassia's career . . . and some of [her films] were painful to me because I felt there was someone who was trapped. There's a really great actress, and she's totally exploited because of her image. . . . I felt she was waiting to show the other side of that image. And she did." Wenders eventually takes the audience to the other side of the peepshow frame, to the woman's point of view. Kinski is tremendously affecting in an exposed role that essentially consists of two scenes with Stanton, in the second of which she mostly just reacts to his long monologue, then delivers a four-minute monologue of her own.
Following these performances, Kinski appears to have focused primarily upon her private life, including children; her roles have been less frequent, and seldom remarkable. As the "other woman" in the Turgenev costume drama Torrents of Spring she is rather flat, like the rest of the cast. As the angel Raphaela in Faraway, So Close, Wenders's sequel to Wings of Desire, she is, at least, quite perfect for the supporting role: hauntingly lovely of face and voice, ineffably sad. Playing conventional heroines in recent thrillers, she has little to do but look charming in the low-budget Crackerjack, while in Terminal Velocity, in the meatier role of an ex-KGB agent who becomes the sidekick of an American flyboy (Charlie Sheen), she is a sexier sort of Nancy Drew as she snoops along dark corridors. One can only wonder if this featured role in a standard Hollywood action film signifies a new phase in a unique, seemingly unfulfilled career.