Nell Zink was born in California in 1964 and now lives in Bad Belzig, just south of Berlin. An avid, but secretive writer, she published her debut novel The Wallcreeper when she was 50, which she wrote in three weeks and sold for $300 to a small American publishing house, Dorothy, which focuses on books about or by women. She’s the author or the irreverent comic novel Mislaid (4th Estate) and is working on a new novel, Nicotine, which will be published next year. Below, Nell Zink picks God as her filmic alter ego. Eithne Farry
What film character would I be? This is a trick question, given that God has appeared in several films. Clearly I’d like to be God. At the same time, I’d prefer that people think of me as a heartbroken Anouk Aimée or Juliette Binoche. I’m certain the latter has appeared opposite God, notably in Kieslowski’s Three Colors: Blue. As God, I would passively watch her suffer – just as viewers do while watching the film, come to think of it – feeling pleasure even at the sight of her blood. Then, being God, I would be mistaken for her when I went out in public. ‘You’re a goddess!’ my fans would cry out.
It’s also a trick question because good movies center on intractable conflict, guaranteeing that most characters will suffer truly bad times right up until the end. Happy characters tend to be crazed ecstatic sprites like Miyazaki’s Ponyo or sociopaths who thrive on conflict à la James Bond. But being James Bond, or even Ponyo, would mean putting up with situations that would break Juliette Binoche’s heart and injuries that dwarf her lightly scraped knuckles in Blue (I like watching people who can sit calmly through splatter movies wince when that happens), such as drowning.
In any case I know for a fact what character I already am. Fred and I went to see the Mike Leigh movie Happy-Go-Lucky when it came out. I emerged feeling very depressed, certain I was virtually indistinguishable from the lonely, cynical, deluded, horrible driving teacher Scott.
‘Niemals!’ Fred said. ‘Du bist Poppy!’ He went on to detail my resemblance to the film’s gratingly bubbly, fun-loving, imperturbable, helpful and quite defiantly alcoholic kindergarten teacher. I was so relieved. Scott is arguably a lot closer to being a heartbroken Juliette Binoche. But Poppy is very nearly God.