London-based sales agency Film Republic has picked up Peter Brunner’s “Luzifer,” which will feature next week in competition at the Locarno Film Festival. The film stars Franz Rogowski, who toplined Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life,” and is produced by Austrian auteur Ulrich Seidl.
In “Luzifer,” which is based on the reimagining of a true story, Rogowski plays Johannes, an innocent, Kaspar Hauser-like man with the heart of a child, who lives secluded in an alpine hut together with his eagle and his devout mother. Daily life in this isolated world is governed by prayer and ritual. But suddenly, modern objects and disruptive noises intrude between nature and worship. A hotel development threatens to poison their paradise and awaken the devil.
In a statement, Brunner commented: “I wanted to show people who return to the essentials. As dropouts from digital pollution, they seek spirituality in nature. This dance, a movement backwards and forwards within a defined space and restricted time, leads in ‘Luzifer’ to a clash between nature and culture.”
He added: “In my films, social realism is undercut by poetic devices, real people collide with fictional characters. My aim is to translate inner states into pure cinema.”
Brunner’s credits include “My Blind Heart” (2013), which was in competition at Rotterdam, “Those Who Fall Have Wings” (2015), winner of the Special Prize of the Jury at Karlovy Vary, and “To the Night” (2018), which was in competition at Karlovy Vary.
Alongside Rogowski, the cast is also led by the non-professional actor Susanna Jensen, a pastor and survivor of abuse. The film was shot by Peter Flinckenberg, whose credits include Camerimage nominee “Concrete Night,” and the music is by Tim Hecker.
The main location, Loschbodenalm at Höllenstein, is situated in the Tyrol region at an altitude of about 2,000 meters above sea level, which made the endeavor quite challenging, as filming took place mainly in September and October and the team had to face heavy rain, strong winds, and even snow storms. Several months ahead of the start of principal photography, Rogowski was in intense training with the eagle, Arthur.
Brunner commented: “Apart from Franz Rogowski, I only cast amateur actors. The work was intense. We lived together in the natural environment, dehorned and castrated cows, hunted with the eagle. Franz worked with birds of prey for over a year, felled trees with an axe and climbed steep mountain faces. The courage of Susanne Jensen, a pastor and survivor of abuse, in facing her difficult past through this role, was one of the most moving experiences of the shoot.”
The production company was Ulrich Seidl Filmproduktion. The associate producer was Veronika Franz. The film was produced with the support of the Austrian Film Institute, the Vienna Film Fund, IDM South Tyrol, FISA – Film Industry Support Austria, and Cine Tirol Film Commission, in collaboration with ORF Film/Fernseh-Abkommen.