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(Fruehlings Erwachen)

The cast of “Fruehlings Erwachen” (photo © Jim Rakete)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 04/2009

This summer saw producer Christian Rohde of teamWorx and ZDFtheaterkanal's Wolfgang Bergmann collaborating for the fourth time on adapting one of Germany's theater classics after Uwe Janson's three films based on Bertolt Brecht's Baal (2003), Frank Wedekind's Lulu (2005) and Goethe's Werther (2008).

The idea of bringing Wedekind's Spring Awakening (Fruehlings Erwachen) to the screen came after Rohde was contacted by Nuran David Calis' agent who recommended that he see the young writer-director's staging of Wedekind's play at the Schauspiel theater in Hanover.

“This production has been very successful and is now touring throughout Germany,” says Rohde, pointing out that the performance he attended “was packed with young people who were all following the play very attentively.”

Rohde and the commissioning editor Meike Klingenberg didn't need much convincing that Calis would be the right man to adapt the play for the ZDFtheaterkanal. A graduate of the Otto Falkenberg School in Munich, Calis had worked at theaters in Munich, Zurich, Hamburg and Berlin, produced music videos for hip hop bands, and has become one of the most talked about directors and writers for stage and screen. This year saw him staging Romeo and Juliet at the Maxim Gorki Theater with pupils from the Ruetli School in the Berlin suburb of Neukoelln.

“The first love of one's life, problems with one's parents, problems with school. There isn't any story about young people that is as timeless as the story about Wendla, Melchior and Moritz in Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind,” Calis says. “Wedekind's story is over 100 years old – but does it still function today? With this film, I want to prove how deeply this story is still grounded in our modern times – I want to show how much this 'classic' has to do with today's reality for young people and how it can give us information about dealing with our youth, their dreams and nightmares, their chances and their failures.”

“Our approach here was to create a realistic world in the present day, so that it would be accessible to as many young people as possible,” Rohde adds. “We didn't want to have an artificial world like on the stage.”

Moreover, this latest collaboration with the ZDFtheaterkanal was quite different from the previous ones in the way the casting was undertaken. “Wilson Gonzalez Ochsenknecht was cast as Melchior because he is interested in moving into more serious roles and we knew that this would be a very popular casting with the younger viewers,” he explains. “But all the other young male parts were cast with actors from the Academy for Performing Art Baden-Wuerttemberg in Ludwigsburg such as Leon A.J. Pfannenmueller, Leo van Kann, Kais Setti and Benjamin Wesener.”

“It was like a group experience for them because many of them lived together during the shoot in Berlin and went out on the town together each evening. That made it easier for them to then function as a group of friends in front of the camera,” Rohde recalls. “One of the young actresses we cast – Constanze Waechter – is a real talent to follow: she has just started drama school and we have already made the TV movie Jetzt sind wir dran for SAT.1 with her too.”

The action was, however, not located in a specific German city. “That was very important for us because the universal aspect of the story would have changed if we had said that the film is set in Berlin or in Munich,” Rohde says.

The film may have a premiere at a festival in 2010 before its airing by ZDFtheaterkanal, but, in the meantime, one can get first impressions of this contemporary take on Wedekind's play by accessing an online blog at

Genre Drama, Coming-of-Age Story

Year of Production 2009
Director Nuran David Calis
Screenplay Nuran David Calis
Cinematography Bjoern Knechtel
Simon Blasi
Vivan Bhatti
Susanne Abel
Cast Wilson Gonzalez Ochsenknecht, Constanze Wächter, Justus von Dohnányi, Leon A.J. Pfannenmueller, Judith Rosmair, Leo van Kann, Fridolin Sandmeyer, Kais Setti
Producers Christian Rohde, Jean-Young Kwak
Production Company teamWorx Television & Film/Potsdam for ZDFtheaterkanal/Mainz
Format color
Shooting Dates Berlin, July - August 2009
Sound Technology Stereo

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