Two German-Norwegian features will shortly roll on Norwegian locations, following Norway’s ratification of the European treaty on co-productions, including German directors Georg Maas’ Two Lives (Zwei Leben/To liv) and Matthias Glasner’s Mercy (Gnade/Nåde).
The last German-Norwegian joint venture was staged 34 years ago.
German actress Juliane Köhler (Downfall) is currently learning Norwegian to play the lead in Two Lives, co-starring with Matthias Schweighöfer and Liv Ullmann.
”A family drama with thriller elements, the historical background is the children born during the WWII Nazi occupation of Norway, with a Norwegian mother and a German soldier father. Some were sent to Germany, where they grew up at East German orphans’ homes. The Stasi state police would steal the indentities of these. Lebensborn kids and used them for spies whom they planted in the West,” explained Norwegian producer Axel Helgeland, of Helgeland Film.
”Now one of them, a woman - 45, living in Norway, married and a successful photographer – is about to be caught by her past, and realises that she will have to admit she is not the person she has claimed to be for the last 20 years. The woman whose identity she took was found murdered, naked and burnt, with fingerprints erased.” Helgeland will produce the $4.8m (€3.1m) with Dieter Zeppenfeld and Rudi Teichmann, of Germany’s Zinnober and B&T Film, on 75% German finance.
Scripted by Danish writer Kim Fupz Aakeson, Mercy has been relocated to Hammerfest in Norway – the world’s most northern city - where Glassner will direct his The Free Will lead Jürgen Vogel and Birgit Minichmayr as a German couple, who have emigrated with their 13-year-old son in the hope of getting a better life together. But soon Nils – an engineer – finds a mistress, and Maria concentrates on work at the hospital where she is a nurse.
Driving home one night Maria hits what she thinks is an animal; the following day she realises it was a teenage girl. She tells her husband, and the secret reunites them in a marriage of new, strong love – then comes the feeling of guilt. With 80% of the budget from Germany and ZDF involved, Kristine Knudsen and Glasner, of Germany’s Knudsen & Streuber and Schwarzweiss Filmproduktion, will produce the $2.9m (€2.2m) Mercy, with Norway’s Aage Aaberge, of Neofilm.
The Norwegian Film Institute has encouraged the bilateral collaboration, organising meetings between Norwegian and German producers and funders, both during the Berlinale and, most recently, during the Nordic Film Days in Lübeck earlier this month.
”Last year 22 French and only one German films were released in Norway. This year seven Norwegian features have been theatrically launched in Germany,” said head of productions Ivar Køhn, of the Norwegian Film Institute.
”We would welcome more German cinema in Norway. As for co-productions, we have a special $1.8m (NOK 10m) fund, and if taking more than 10,000 admissions here, they are eligible for an ex-post support up to 50% of the budget spent in Norway,” he concluded.