03 April 2017

Maruschka Detmers

Gorgeous Dutch actress Maruschka Detmers (1962) moved to France as a teenager, where she captured the attention of director Jean-Luc Godard, and made her dramatic debut in his Prénom Carmen (1983). Other noteworthy films include Hanna's War (1988) and The Mambo Kings (1992), but she is best known for her role in Diavolo in corpo/Devil in the Flesh (1986).

Maruschka Detmers
French postcard in the Le jour se lève series by Editions Humour à la carte, Paris, no. ST-19. Photo: Jean-Pierre Larcher.


Maruschka Detmers was born in 1962 in Schoonebeek, The Netherlands. Her father was a veterinarian. As a 17-year-old, she moved to Paris to work there as an au pair and take acting lessons.

In Paris, she was discovered by the French film director Jean-Luc Godard, after which she played the female lead in his film Prénom Carmen/First Name - Carmen (Jean-Luc Godard, 1983), very loosely based on Bizet's opera Carmen. Prénom Carmen tells the parallel stories of a quartet rehearsing Beethoven and a group of young people robbing a bank, supposedly to get the funds to make a film.

Louis Schwartz at AllMovie: “The film is a meditation on the difficulties of youth in the 1980s, the relations between cinema and capital, and how to film the human body. Godard fills the film with carefully composed shots of bodies playing music, making love, and acting violently. His attention to bodies in First Name: Carmen makes the film's images very close to sculptures, particularly those of Rodin.” At the Venice International Film Festival, Godard was awarded the Golden Lion for his film.

In 1985, Detmers was nominated for the César for Best Supporting Actress (Meilleure actrice dans un second rôle) for La pirate/The Pirate (Jacques Doillon, 1984) starring Jane Birkin.

The following year, Detmers starred in the Italian erotic drama Diavolo in corpo/Devil in the Flesh (1986) directed by Marco Bellocchio. An adaptation of Raymond Radiguet’s novel Le Diable au corps, the film stars Federico Pitzalis as a high school student who falls in love with an older woman (Detmers). The film caused a fuss because of a darkly-lit but explicit fellatio-scene of which the authenticity later was disputed. The film was released in the United States in both R and X-rated versions.

Also controversial was Marco Ferreri’s satirical comedy Y'a Bon Les Blancs/Um, Good, De White Folks (1988), in which members of a European humanitarian organization in African end up being eaten by cannibals.

More commercial was her leading role as Hannah Senesh, a real-life Hungarian Jew who became a martyr to the cause of freedom during WW II, in Hanna's War (Menahem Golan, 1988), produced by the Cannon Group. Hal Erickson at AllMovie: “The script, based on Hannah's diaries (as edited by Yoel Palgi), surprisingly downplays heroics in favor of sensationalism; the prison scenes could just as well have been lifted from a Linda Blair "babes behind bars" picture. Even so, Detmers is excellent in the title role, while Ellen Burstyn is likewise superb as Hannah's mother.”

French trailer La pirate/The Pirate (1984). Source: imineo Bandes Annonces (YouTube).

Genuine feeling and sensitivity

Maruschka Detmers continued her career in French, Italian and American productions. In the romantic comedy Deux/Two (Claude Zidi, 1988), she played opposite Gérard Depardieu. James Travers at Films de France: “Most of the weaknesses in the script are well-concealed by Zidi’s focused and expressive direction, and by the well-judged performances by Depardieu and Detmers. The two actors bring genuine feeling and sensitivity to their portrayals.”

Other French films include Comedie d'ete/Summer Interlude (Daniel Vigne, 1989), and Le brasier (Eric Barbier, 1991) with Jean-Marc Barr and Thierry Fortineau. The latter, a drama about the social struggles of a mining area in the 1930s, was a commercial disaster, selling less than 40,000 tickets in the Paris region. However, Detmers fell in love with co-star Thierry Fortineau and from their relationship daughter Jade Fortineau was born in 1991.

Detmers’s best known American film is the musical drama The Mambo Kings (Arne Glimcher, 1992), starring Antonio Banderas and Armand Assante. It is an adaptation of Oscar Hijuelos's 1989 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. The film received mostly positive reviews from critics, but underperformed at the box office.

Later Detmers mostly worked in the French cinema. Her later films include Te quiero (Manuel Poirier, 2001) with Sergi López, the drama Le Père Goriot/Father Goriot (Jean-Daniel Verhaeghe, 2004), based on the novel by Honoré de Balzac and featuring Charles Aznavour, and the teen comedy Nos 18 ans/School's Out (Frédéric Berthe, 2008).

In Germany she appeared opposite Tom Schilling in the comedy Robert Zimmermann wundert sich über die Liebe/Robert Zimmermann Is Tangled Up in Love (Leander Haussmann, 2008) about a Spring-Autumn romance. Finally, she made her Dutch film debut in the comedy-drama Ventoux (Nicole van Kilsdonk, 2015). However, she now mostly works for French television, including a part in the hit series Marseille (Thomas Gilou, Florent-Emilio Siri, 2016), starring Gérard Depardieu.

Maruschka Detmers lives in Paris. Her daughter Jade Fortineau is now also an actress.

Trailer The Mambo Kings (1992). Source: Video Detective (YouTube).

Trailer Robert Zimmermann wundert sich über die Liebe/Robert Zimmermann Is Tangled Up in Love (2008). Source: Snoozercat (YouTube).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Louis Schwartz (AllMovie), James Travers (Films de France), AllMovie, Wikipedia (English and Dutch) and IMDb.

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