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Jan Plewka in “Liebeslied” (photo © Flying Moon Filmproduktion/Matthias Melster)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 01/2008

Annedore von Donop brought her 20 years as a commissioning editor at ZDF's Das kleine Fernsehspiel unit to an end at the beginning of 2008 with Anne Hoegh Krohn's second feature Liebeslied.

They had previously worked together in 1999 on Hoegh Krohn's graduation film, Fremde Freundin, from Berlin's German Film & Television Academy (dffb) after von Donop had seen the Norwegian-born director's student shorts.

After this collaboration, Hoegh Krohn had the chance in 2002 to make a TV movie for ZDF's Monday evening schedule, Geld macht sexy, "but we always kept in contact and Anne then came to me with the idea for Liebeslied in 2004," von Donop recalls. "A film with a dramatic story about an illness, a love story, and people get to sing. I was immediately electrified by the idea and could already see the film in my mind's eye."

Hoegh Krohn's screenplay centers on Roger and Dinah, a couple in their early 30s, who are happily in love, have two healthy children and are creating their own home sweet home in a medium-sized town somewhere in Germany.

But a cruel stroke of fate throws all of this harmony into question when Roger is suddenly diagnosed with Parkison's disease: he is soon incapable of working in his profession as a freelance carpenter and is unable to hide the limitations on his mobility from Dinah. Their relationship will never be the same again and they will be increasingly confronted by financial problems. The question is: will they be able to master this challenge together and will their love for each other be strong enough?

As von Donop explains, the film shows "characters taken from real life and located in a real setting, and that was one of the key aspects in the film which I often see lacking in other films. The main characters are not existing in a vacuum, they are two people who are living happily together and, for once, are not academics – Roger works with his hands as a carpenter and Dinah works at the checkout in a supermarket."

"The film also seeks to do away with the prejudice that the Parkinson's disease only affects older people," she continues. "You can contract it at a very early age. In her research for the film, Anne met a Parkinson's sufferer living near Hamburg who read the drafts of the screenplay and gave us advice. We wanted to make sure that the disease is portrayed correctly and integrate the perspective of someone affected into the character [of Roger]."

Meanwhile, an important condition had to be met for the casting of the two leads: they should be able to sing and be musical.

"The casting of Jan Plewka was a real stroke of luck. He was found by Anne and is the true embodiment of the character of Roger," von Donop says.

Although not having any formal training as an actor, Plewka has more than 15 years experience of working in the music business: in the early 1990s, he co-founded the band Selig with Christian Neander and went on to form such bands as Zinoba and Tempeau before going on a solo concert tour with the songs of Rio Reiser in the last couple of years.

And Nicolette Krebitz, whose second feature film Das Herz ist ein dunkler Wald was released in German cinemas at the end of last year and who also recorded an album with fellow actress Jasmin Tabatabai, "is the perfect casting for Dinah," von Donop suggests.

She explains that the music is "organically integrated into the film's action: we have found a form where there doesn't seem to be any comparable film. Music and songs develop from a conversation between the two characters and then they continue their conversation as before. I think one can often express things with music which would be much harder if one had to use language."

Right up to just before principal photography began at the end of November, songs were being specially composed for the film, the musical styles ranging from heavy metal – the character of Roger is a Metallica fan – to German rock. Moreover, extensive preparations were also being devoted to training the child actors and planning some complex dream sequences as well as rehearsing with Plewka for such scenes as when he succumbs to an uncontrollable shaking fit.

Genre Music, Drama
Category Feature
Year of Production 2008
Director Anne Høegh Krohn
Screenplay Anne Høegh Krohn
Cinematography Matthias Schellenberg
Uta Schmidt
Jan Plewka, Nicolette Krebitz, Christian Neander
Dorothee von Bodelschwingh
Cast Jan Plewka, Nicolette Krebitz, Elisa Richter, Levin Henning, Oliver Broecker, Stephanie Kaemmer, Markus Lerch, Milena Dreißig, Antonio Wannek, Gilbert Mieroph, Joseph Dragus
Producer Roshanak Behesht Nedjad
Production Company Flying Moon Film/Potsdam-Halle, in co-production with KOPPFILM/Berlin, ZDF Das kleine Fernsehspiel
Shooting Dates Halle/Saale, November 2007 - January 2008
Sound Technology Dolby SRD
With backing from Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, German Federal Film Fund / DFFF Deutscher Filmförderfonds
German Distributor Zorro Film/Munich

Flying Moon Filmproduktion GmbH
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13353 Berlin/Germany
phone +49-30-3 22 97 18 0
fax +49-30-3 22 97 18 11