Zurich-Berlin based Tellfilm, producer of “Blue My Mind” from “Killing Eve” director Lisa Brühlmann, is set to go into production on Aug. 22 on its biggest movie yet, “Monte Verità,” a period drama about a woman’s across-the-board emancipation.
Set to shoot in the Locarno region of Ticino, southern Switzerland, “Monte Verita” is lead produced by Tellfilm and co-produced by Vienna’s KGP Filmproduction and Coin Film in Germany’s Cologne.
Directed by Stefan Jäger (“Horizon Beautiful”), “Monte Verità” consolidates Tellfilm’s transformation from a company making movies targeting the Swiss domestic market into one creating higher-profile European co-productions.
“‘Blue My Mind’ and ‘Animals’ marked a kind of breakthrough for us. ’Monte Verità’ is our next step, the biggest Telefilm production to date. We have become bigger and more international,” said Katrin Renz, CEO at Tellfilm and one of the European Film Promotion’s 2018 Producers on the Move at the 71st Cannes Festival.
“Monte Verità” is set in 1906, at the artists health spa of the title in Ascona, Ticino, which channeled much of the groundswell of forces – Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis, the push for women’s rights, free dance love and even vegan food – challenging Belle Epoque bourgeois conservatism.
“Monte Verità was founded over 100 years ago. It became an amazing place, well known in Germany, where artists came together to discuss issues which are still very modern,” said Renz.
Written by Cornelia Naraks, the feature revolves around Hanna Leitner, a woman in her late 20s who feel suffocated by the rigid daily routine of a bourgeois household with husband Anton and their two daughters. She begins to suffer chronic asthma attacks and reject Anton’s sexual advances which causes him to dispatch Hanna to a neurologist, Otto Gross, a disciple of Freud (whose character is based on the real-life figure).
When Anton rapes Hanna and Gross leaves for the Alps, Hanna follows Gross in desperation – to discover at Monte Verità a freedom she has never known and her own unsuspected skills as a photographer, a life passion.
Though she misses her daughters deeply, the question now is if she can ever return to her former bourgeois life.
There’s no easy answer. “How can the protagonist understand that she has a fundamental right to prioritize her search for her identity, especially as a person who has grown up in a society which gave her precious little opportunity for self-actualization?” Jäger asks.
“The more female artists stride in the direction of independence (and subsequently away from family ties) the more scandal is ignited around them,” Jäger added.
Construction on the Casa Centrale – or central residence – of Monte Verità has been initiated in Cologne, with the set then transported and built on a hill in countryside in Ticino, where Monte Verità was created, near Ascona, just outside Locarno, where the film will shoot with the aid of the Ticino Film Commission.
DCM Filmdistribution will distribute “Monte Verità” in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein.
Tellfilm will follow up “Monte Verità” by producing “Bachmann & Frisch,” the next feature film from New German Cinema director Margarethe von Trotta (“The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum,” “Rosa Luxemburg”), which charts the tormented and contradictory relationship between liberated Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann and Swiss playwright Max Frisch.
To shoot in 2021, the feature film is set up as a co-production between Tellfilm, Amour Fou in Austria and Luxembourg, and Tellfilm Deutschland, the German production operation that Tellfilm set up in 2013.
“This will be a big production as well,” said Renz. “We have stories in Switzerland – ‘Monte Verità,’ Max Frisch – that are universal and interesting for the international market as well.”
Tellfilm’s recent credits also include “Animals,” a well reviewed co-production between Tellfilm, Austria’s Coop99 Filmproduktion and Poland’s Opus Film from Swiss-Polish writer-director Greg Zglinski.