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Digging for Belladonna (Der die Tollkirsche ausgraebt)

Digging for Belladonna
Scene from “Digging for Belladonna” (photo courtesy of X Verleih)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 03/2005

With Der die Tollkrische ausgraebt (“Digging Up Atropa”), Franka Potente, one of the few German acting talents to make it big both in Germany and in the U.S., makes her writing-directing debut.

It’s 1918, when everything was still in black and white and silent. Cecilie’s parents’ plans to marry her off to Alfred meet with their daughter’s less than full approval. The day before the wedding the parents find the end of a piece of drapery in the garden. Suddenly a 21st century punk stands there – and speaks! Cecile falls head over heels for the guy. Only an ancient, magical ritual to bring together what belongs together, in which a Bella Donna is dug up at midnight, can solve the problem.

Sounds like a bit of a drug trip? Well, the English names for Tollkirsche include Bella Donna, Deadly Nightshade, Devil’s Cherries, Devil’s Herd and Naughty Man’s Cherries! Its folkloric origins include helping witches to fly, it is used as a medical relaxant, and it is also a powerful hallucinogenic. But before you try it at home, kids, remember, the therapeutic dose of Bella Donna is very close to the toxic amount. In any event, the main character and her mother have a lot to do with magic and conjuring, so there is a reason.

“We’ve known Franka for years and done many films together,” says producer Stefan Arndt, who also gets to show off his acting chops this time round. “She called me at the end of December 2004, said she had something to show me and brought the script in. I called her the next day and said we’re making the film!”

“She is super to work with,” says Arndt. “We need more female directors like this! They also hold up better under stress! She’s very conscientious and fights for the film.”

In addition to being able to fight, Potente is equally at home with action, horror and romance (Lola rennt, Anatomie, Blow, Anatomie 2, Blueprint, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, Creep) proving, as Arndt testifies, “that she can do more than just girly roles. But adult roles of this caliber are rare so it’s great to see her stretch herself and to think what else she can do by developing more interesting roles.”

“Our goal is to bring it to the cinema, on its own if it turns out as great as we hope,” says Arndt. “Time and money are tight these days and it’s horrible just how long films have become! We can offer cinemagoers one whole film at half the length for half the price!” Now this is the kind of outside-the-box thinking that is so needed these days!

Not that Franka has turned her back on acting. But right now this multi-talented woman is set to show us that beauty in front of the camera doesn’t automatically rule out having brains behind it!

Nor will this be her last time in the director’s chair. “She’s already called me,” says Arndt, “and asked to meet.”

Genre Comedy
Category Short, Silent
Year of Production 2005
Director Franka Potente
Screenplay Franka Potente
Cinematography Frank Griebe
Antje Zynga
Yesim Zolan
Cast Emilia Sparagna, Christoph Bach, Justus von Dohnányi, Max Urlacher, Teresa Harder, Regine Zimmermann, Alexander Seidel, Stefan Arndt
Producer Stefan Arndt
Production Company X Filme Creative Pool, in co-production with ARTE, WDR
Format 35 mm, color
Shooting Dates Berlin, Brandenburg, May 2005
Festivals Berlin 2006, Goeteborg 2007
German Distributor X Verleih

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