Margit Carstensen

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Margit Carstensen
Born(1940-02-29)29 February 1940
Died1 June 2023(2023-06-01) (aged 83)
Heide, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Margit Carstensen (29 February 1940 – 1 June 2023) was a German theatre and film actress, best known outside Germany for roles in the works of film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. She appeared in films of directors Christoph Schlingensief and Leander Haußmann and on television in Tatort.

Theater career[edit]

Carstensen, the daughter of a physician, was born and raised in the northern German city of Kiel.[1][2][3] Upon graduation from the local high school in 1958 (Abitur),[4] she studied acting at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg.[5] This education led to her first stage appearances in Kleve, Heilbronn, Münster, and Braunschweig.[6] In 1965, Carstensen began a four-year engagement with the Deutsches Schauspielhaus (German Playhouse) in Hamburg.[7] There she played leading roles in plays by John Osborne and the classical Spanish playwright Lope de Vega.[7]

In 1969, she gained a local profile for her work in the Theater am Goetheplatz in Bremen, where she first met director Rainer Werner Fassbinder.[8] She then worked under his direction in a comedy by the 18th-century Venetian Carlo Goldoni, The Coffee Shop (which was recorded for television in 1970), bringing her national attention in West Germany.[9] She subsequently played the role of serial murderess Geesche Gottfried in the premiere of Fassbinder's own play Bremen Freedom (also televised, in 1972),[10] and then in the title role of his Henrik Ibsen adaptation Nora Helmer (televised in 1974) derived from A Doll's House.[11]

From 1973 to 1976, Carstensen held a steady acting engagement in Darmstadt.[5] In 1977, she moved to what was then West Berlin where she performed on the highly regarded Staatliche Schauspielbühnen.[12] In 1982, she moved to Stuttgart in order to work with director Hansgünther Heyme, where she appeared in a series of plays directed by him.[13][14] Over the years she also performed in many smaller roles on the most important of the German-language stages, for example making several appearances in the Munich Kammerspiele.[15]

By the late 1980s, she had developed ongoing working relationships with German directors Werner Schroeter, Christoph Schlingensief, and Leander Haußmann.[13] In 1995 she followed Haußmann to Bochum, in order to work with him there.[13] For the 2003–04 season, Carstensen appeared in the Vienna Burgtheater, in the premiere of Elfriede Jelinek's play Bambiland under the direction of Schlingensief.[16]

In 2008, she appeared in the Schauspielhaus Bochum (Playhouse Bochum), in Shakespeare's As You Like It.[17][18]

Film and television[edit]

Carstensen is best known outside Germany for the many film and television productions of Rainer Werner Fassbinder in which she participated. She played leading roles in the Fassbinder films The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972), her best-known role for Fassbinder; Martha (1974), with Karlheinz Böhm, analysing a traditional marriage in a contemporary setting; Fear of Fear (1975); Mother Küsters' Trip to Heaven (1975); Satan's Brew (1976); Chinese Roulette (1976) and Women in New York (1977). She also appeared in individual episodes of two Fassbinder television productions: Eight Hours Don't Make a Day (1972),[19] and Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980).[20]

Carstensen also worked in international productions. In the fifth film made by Polish director Andrzej Żuławski, Possession (1981), a French-German coproduction, she performed together with Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill and Heinz Bennent. Four years later she worked with Polish-born director Agnieszka Holland on her film Angry Harvest (1985), together with Armin Mueller-Stahl.[21] This film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.[22]

Her artistic collaboration with director Christoph Schlingensief began with two of his film projects. In his 100 Years of Adolf Hitler: The Last Hour in the Führerbunker (1989), she played the part of Magda Goebbels.[23] In his satirical political spoof Terror 2000: Germany Out of Control (1992), she played the role of a detective.[23]

Carstensen appeared in films by directors such as Leander Haußmann (Sonnenallee, 1999); Romuald Karmakar (Manila, 2000); Chris Kraus (Scherbentanz, 2002, a role for which she won the Bavarian Film Award for Best Actress);[5] Oskar Roehler (Agnes and His Brothers, 2004) and Detlev Buck (Hands off Mississippi, 2007).[5]

During the 2007–08 season Carstensen assisted with the Austrian-German TV documentary Mr. Karl – A Person for People, directed by Kurt Mayer.[5]

In 2016, she was still on television, appearing in the longrunning series Tatort.[23]


Carstensen died in Heide, Schleswig-Holstein, on 1 June 2023, at age 83.[24]


Carstensen received many awards in her career. Among these were the 1973 German Film Awards (Gold), for her acting in The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,[5] and the 2002 Bavarian Film Award, for her acting in Scherbentanz. In 1972 she was chosen by the German Film Critics Guild as Best Actress of the Year.[25] In 2019, she was awarded the Götz-George-Preis [de] for her life's work.[24]




  1. ^ ""Martha"-Star Margit Carstensen ist mit 83 Jahren gestorben". ZDFmediathek (in German). 2 June 2023. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  2. ^ Dirksen, Jens (2 June 2023). "Margit Carstensen war eine Frau der vielen Gesichter". (in German). Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  3. ^ "Margit Carstensen: Die Schauspielerin starb mit 83 – Fassbinder machte sie berühmt". (in German). 2 June 2023. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  4. ^ Buß, Christian (19 August 2019). "Margit Carstensen erhält den Götz-George-Preis". Der Spiegel (in German). Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Margit Carstensen". (in German). Archived from the original on 26 October 2022. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  6. ^ "Margit Carstensen". Munzinger Biographie (in German). Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  7. ^ a b "Margit Carstensen – Biografie". Deutsches Filmhaus (in German). Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  8. ^ "Margit Carstensen – Infos und Filme". Prisma. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  9. ^ "Das Kaffeehaus (The Coffeehouse)". Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation. 2 June 2023. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  10. ^ "Bremer Freiheit". Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation (in German). 19 October 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  11. ^ "Nora Helmer". Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation (in German). 21 October 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  12. ^ "Zum Tod von Margit Carstensen: Der unterschätzte Star der "Fassbinder Factory"". Der Tagesspiegel (in German). 2 June 2023. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  13. ^ a b c "Margit Carstensen – Biografie". Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  14. ^ Kaempf, Simone (2 June 2023). "Schauspielerin Margit Carstensen gestorben". übersicht (in German). Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  15. ^ "MIME". Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  16. ^ "SCHLINGENSIEF". Archived from the original on 24 November 2021. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  17. ^ "Wie es euch gefällt – Elmar Goerden – SonntagsNachrichten Herne". SonntagsNachrichten Herne (in German). 4 January 2021. Archived from the original on 14 August 2022. Retrieved 14 August 2022.
  18. ^ "Acht Stunden sind kein Tag (Eight Hours Don't Make a Day)". Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation. 18 October 2013. Archived from the original on 14 August 2022. Retrieved 14 August 2022.
  19. ^ "Berlin Alexanderplatz". TV Wunschliste (in German). 31 May 2021. Archived from the original on 14 August 2022. Retrieved 14 August 2022.
  20. ^ Kehr, Dave (26 October 1985). "Angry Harvest". Chicago Reader. Archived from the original on 14 August 2022. Retrieved 14 August 2022.
  21. ^ "Angry Harvest". Miami Jewish Film Festival. Retrieved 3 June 2023.
  22. ^ a b c Kettenbach, Maximilian (2 June 2023). ""Tatort"-Schauspielerin Margit Carstensen ist tot – Krankheit machte ihr lange zu schaffen". (in German). Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  23. ^ a b "Margit Carstensen ist tot: Sie gehörte zu den großen Fassbinder-Stars". Sü (in German). 2 June 2023. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  24. ^ "Margit Carstensen". Archived from the original on 11 March 2008. Retrieved 31 July 2008.

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