In her third feature film Wild, Nicolette Krebitz shows us how Ania tries to turn around her dull life with the help of a wolf. “A life without risks is a wasted life, it won’t make you happy.”

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When Ania sees a wolf in the park outside her appartment complex, it’s the start of turning around her life, leaving behind her desk job and releasing her wild side. The first inkling for the film came to Krebitz in a dream, she said in a Q&A with online magazine Spätvorstellung. “It was a recurring dream in which someone or something was behind me. After I had the dream a few times, one night I had the same dream and decided to turn around, and there was a wolf. When I woke up I thought: that will be my next film. After that wolves started to turn up everywhere in my life!”

It connected with stories Krebitz read about wolves coming back into Germany at the Polish border. That image interested me, she says in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung. “At a place where people are moving away and society is disappearing, the wild is coming back.”

In a talk with the German webmagazine Planet Interview, she mentions how she let her own wild side take over while writing the film. “As a filmmaker you can imagine any story you want. At least in your mind, you can let your wildness run free. And I did! But when you get to the set, it doesn’t work like that anymore.”

That’s especially true if you’re working with a wild animal. Every shot you see in Wild was filmed for real, mostly with the same trained wolf, called Nelson. “There was no CGI or replacement dogs or whatever, it was always a wolf”, Krebitz confirms in the Suddeutsche Zeitung. “There was a second wolf we used for the wide shots, but aside from that, everything happened as you see it.” Nevertheless, the production travelled around with a whole pack of wolves, Krebitz explains in Planet Interview: “Nelson is the alpha male of his pack. If we had taken him away from the group for the whole shoot, his place would have been taken by another wolf that would have fought him for it when he came back. So we couldn’t break up the pack.”

Krebitz jokes that “it’s just as difficult to work with any other actor, they all have their issues” in the Spätvorstellung interview. But on set, everything had to be planned meticulously to ensure that the wolf could play his part. “You really have to be attentive to what the animal needs, and to what you can’t do. For instance, you can’t use a boom mike, that would really freak it out. And you have to be really careful with your shot angles, to keep the animal trainer outside of the frame but allow the wolf to stay in visual contact with them. So you can’t do an over-the-shoulder shot! And then we had to make sure that all the actors that had to work with the wolf overcame their fear. But this wasn’t a problem with Lilith, because I think she’s a wolf herself!”