Oscar-nominated cinematographer Lajos Koltai (Taking Sides, Malena) and veteran Israeli producer-director Menahem Golan have both announced feature projects about the devastating impact of the Nazis on Jews in Europe.
Koltai will be making his directorial debut with adaptation of Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertesz's novel Fateless which will begin an 11-week shoot on location in Hungary and Germany from December 15.
The Euros 10m project - the most expensive Hungarian project of all time - will be a Hungarian-German-UK co-production between Magic Media Inc., EuroArts and Renegade Films with backing from the Hungarian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Hungarian Motion Picture Foundation, German broadcaster MDR and regional funds MDM and MFG Baden-Wuerttemberg as well as the UK's Ingenious Films.
Fateless follows the story of a 14-year-old Jewish boy, Gyorgy, from Budapest who finds himself increasingly alone as the terrible events of World War II unfold around him. His father is sent off to a labour camp, and Gyorgy volunteers to go to a camp in Germany, convinced that life will be safer there. At the concentration camp, he conforms and survives, taking the realities of camp life for granted and treating it as an everyday existence not unlike any other.
"This will be a different look at the concentration camp experience, seen as it is through the eyes of a young teenager," producer Peter Barbalics of Magic Media explained. "Boys tend to act like boys whereever they are, and there is humour and humanity to be found even amidst unspeakable tragedy."
Speaking at the weekend in Berlin, Kertesz, who has also written the screenplay, said: "we are not intending to make another Holocaust film, but rather to show the loss of personality. I did not want Lajos to merely illustrate the novel, so my script is like a blank cheque for him to interpret the story through the visual medium."
Koltai said that the film will be shot in Hungarian with an unknown local cast.
Meanwhile, a February 2004 start has been set for production on Menahem Golan's English language screen version of Israeli author Aharon Appelfeld's prize-winning novel Badenheim 1939 at locations in North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt and Austria.
The German-Austrian-UK coproduction between novapool production, Sofi Filmproduction, Cine Images Filmproduktion and Vienna-based Terra Filmproduktion and the UK's Future Films has received backing from Filmstiftung NRW, MDM, the Austrian Film Institute (OFI), Salzburg's regional film fund and Austrian public broadcaster ORF.
Badenheim is set in a fictional Austrian vacation resort somewhere in Central Europe during the spring of 1939. A seemingly unremarkable assortment of middle-class Jews on holiday have gathered at Badenheim, only later to be united by what would become history's most atrocious turning point. The "Music Festival" of Badenheim will soon enough become a place of Jewish detainment from which the only exit will be via forced transport to Poland.
Klaus Maria-Brandauer, Jacqueline Bisset and Gottfried John will headline the cast of the surreal tragicomedy whose screenplay has been written by Joseph Goldman and Frank Schuelberg.
"Badenheim is the most important film in my life", according to Golan, "for it recounts a part of my own family history."