History lecturer by day, scuba-diving mermaid by night: Paula Beer has her work cut out for her as the mythical Undine in director Christian Petzold’s new movie of the same name. The 26-year-old German actress also has to deliver lines such as “If you don’t love me, I’m going to kill you” as her character is cursed with bewitching and destroying those men with whom she falls fatally in love.

Beer’s believability in a dramatic role that could have easily veered into John Waters territory deservedly won her a Silver Bear for best actress at last year’s Berlin Film Festival. Undine, in theaters now, represents her latest starring role in a career that already spans 12 years.