Although “Amour” represented Austria in the foreign-language film race, its Paris-based lead-producer, Margaret Menegoz, is the one who pulled 70% of the film’s e8.1 million ($10.6 million) budget from France.
Germany’s X Filme Creative Pool and Austria’s Wega Film, the pair that teamed on Haneke’s “The White Ribbon,” co-produced, bringing 20% and 10% of the financing, respectively.
And even when you’re Michael Haneke’s producer, pitching a film about old age, illness and ultimately death is a tough call, especially when most players are looking for crowd-pleasers with happy endings.
” ‘Amour’ was Haneke’s most challenging film to get off the ground,” says Menegoz. “If you put together the subject matter, which is somewhat taboo, with the fact that the two leading actors — Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva — are in their 80s, you get a project that is unlikely to get partners such as TV channels excited.”
Menegoz added, “Eventually the main French backers — public broadcaster France Television, pay TV net Canal Plus, the national film board CNC and Ile de France region — all agreed to help fund the project but more modestly than they did on Haneke’s previous films, and that’s why we needed the German and Austrian co-producers.”
The producer — whose 50-year-old company, Les Films du Losange, has produced and distributed films by Jacques Rivette, Otar Ioseliani and Losange’s co-founders, Eric Rohmer and Barbet Schroeder — is a longtime collaborator with writer-director Haneke.
“Amour” takes place almost entirely within the Paris apartment of Georges and Anne, a couple of retired music teachers, and yet, the film isn’t a micro-budgeted pic.
“The shooting was long (nine weeks) and we had about 50 crew members working for months on the decor at the Epinay Studio, located just outside of Paris,” said Menegoz, adding that some one-minute scenes would take an entire day to film.
Since the film lensed exclusively in France and hired local crews and thesps, Menegoz was able to tap into the $1.3 million Gallic tax rebate.
International distribs were easier to lure than financiers, per Agathe Valentin, sales topper at Losange, who said “Amour” pre-sold nearly worldwide before its Cannes premiere to loyal Haneke followers.
Haneke had started working on “Amour” before “The White Ribbon,” which was originally developed for a German broadcaster, Menegoz said.
“I figured it was wiser to shoot ‘White Ribbon’ first because I knew it would be physically draining and thought we could film ‘Amour’ comfortably in a studio even when we’ll both be 100 years old,” the producer quipped.
The film was nominated in five key categories, including best pic. That’s an impressive result for a foreign-language film, but not unprecedented: Over the years, foreign-lingo pics have chalked up 115 noms in other categories. (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” holds the record for noms, with 10; “Life Is Beautiful” nabbed seven.) Before “Amour,” eight other foreign films were nommed in the best pic race.