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Scene from THE END IS MY BEGINNING (photo © Collina Film/Rolf v.d. Heydt)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 01/2010

The phrase ‘star vehicle’ has become an often rightly derided one, usually denoting a foisted-on-audiences appearance by whichever rapper, singer, star or starlet Hollywood is keen to push (actual talent optional!). But it can also denote a film that is, quite simply, tailor-made for a lead of such talent and depth that it becomes impossible to imagine some other actor in the role. In such rare cases, the result is the cinematic experience discerning audiences can bask in. THE END IS MY BEGINNING falls in the sweet spot of this latter.

Anyone familiar with Bruno Ganz knows he takes acting from the realms of a craft into an art form. His performance as evil Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in DOWNFALL is a tour de force, by any and every standard. Here, in THE END IS MY BEGINNING, he plays the terminally ill Italian journalist Tiziano Terzani, a former Asia correspondent for Der Spiegel magazine, in conversation with his son Folco.

Terzani has withdrawn to a breathtakingly beautiful, small mountain village north west of Florence, where he has invited his son to hear the story of his life. For three months Tiziano and Folco will converse every day, during which the older man reflects on his life, society, today’s times, youth and the world. The conversations range freely on subjects such as daring to risk freedom, courage, love, illness and mourning, the fleeting moments of beauty and, as the film’s title embodies, how to take one’s farewell.

Although death is omnipresent, and thus a central feature of the film, THE END IS MY BEGINNING possesses an impressive lightness. “Tiziano does not bemoan his fate,” director Jo Baier explains. “He welcomes death as a friend, the one new thing that can still happen to him. We experience his passing without tearful sentimentality, but instead with great clarity, dignity and humanity.”

“THE END IS MY BEGINNING is about the question of how one can lead a fulfilled life,” Ulrich Limmer, co-writer and producer, continues. “It allows the audience to experience the path to death in such a way as Terzani does. We see a family that is not built on conflict and confrontation but has found a way to accept one another and to live with a man and father who has always cast a large shadow.”

The anecdotal tales from Terzani’s life feature, but are not the film’s hook. It is his life experience that leads viewers to being permitted to watch a great figure go without complaint to death. Narrated in a clear and unsentimental manner, THE END IS MY BEGINNING invokes the greatest emotions and demonstrates that the end is also the beginning.

Genre Drama
Category Feature
Year of Production 2010
Director Jo Baier
Screenplay Folco Terzani, Ulrich Limmer
Cinematography Judith Kaufmann
Claus Wehlisch
Eckart Friz
Cast Andrea Osvárt, Erika Pluhar, Elio Germano, Bruno Ganz, Gianni Cavina
Producer Ulrich Limmer
Production Company Collina Filmproduktion, in co-production with B.A. Produktion/Munich, SWR/Stuttgart, Degeto Film, ARTE
Format 35 mm, color
Shooting Dates Northern Tuscany, September - October 2009
Sound Technology Dolby SRD
Festivals Haifa 2011, Goa 2011 (International Competition)
With backing from FilmFernsehFonds Bayern, German Federal Film Fund / DFFF Deutscher Filmförderfonds

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