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(Hartz 4.2)

On the “Hartz 4.2” set on the island of Sylt (photo © element e filmproduktion)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 03/2006

Mid-July saw production wrapping on actor Justus von Dohnányi's first spell behind the camera as director on Hartz 4.2 (working title) after an impressive acting career which has seen him appear in such prize-winning films as The Experiment (Das Experiment), Downfall (Der Untergang), Napola, About the Looking for and the Finding of Love (Vom Suchen und Finden der Liebe), and Bonhoeffer.

Based on a screenplay penned by von Dohnányi himself, Hartz 4.2 follows the crazy journey with a corpse of a bank clerk from the Swiss Alps through a Germany gripped by World Cup football fever to the island of Sylt where the recently deceased is destined to play a key role in plans to rob his own bank.

Producers Bernd T. Hoefflin and Lars Buechel of element e filmproduktion had first met von Dohnányi three years ago on the shoot of Ivar Leon Menger's short thriller Tramper where the actor had played a hitchhiker opposite Fabian Busch. "We had kept in contact ever since because Justus had the idea of directing even then," Hoefflin recalls. "He had worked on various scripts and wrote this one at the end of last year. He came to us with the project just 3-4 months before the planned shooting time which was quite a risk for us because it was at such short notice that we couldn't apply for funding [in time for the production]."

Hoefflin admits that it was "a handicap" not having any public funding, but points out the film's plot required that the shoot had to take place during the World Cup championship.

"We decided that we just had to do it," he explains. "Fortunately, there was the advantage that these were friends who wanted to make a film together – Justus and the other actors know each other from films or work in the theater – and so there is a quite different atmosphere on the production."

Since they had a limited budget (around €700,000 including deferrals) the team was kept small, often with no more than 12 people on the set, and the film was shot on HDV with plans for a later blow-up to 35 mm.

"We chose HDV, firstly, to be very flexible and also because cameraman Matthias Schellenberg has experience of working in this medium on films like Kroko and The White Sound (Das weisse Rauschen)," Hoefflin notes.

"The World Cup is not at the forefront of the story although the film's action begins on the day of the opening game and ends on the day of the final," he says. "Nevertheless, we have been out capturing the atmosphere of euphoria in Germany during the event, although we have made sure that we don't get any official logos in frame. It's often enough to film the people's reactions to the matches at the open-air public viewings."

Hartz 4.2 is element e's second feature film after Gernot Kraa's family film Paula's Secret (Paulas Geheimnis) which is currently in post-production and will have its premiere this year at the beginning of October.

Genre Comedy, Road Movie
Category Feature
Year of Production 2006
Director Justus von Dohnányi
Screenplay Justus von Dohnányi
Cinematography Matthias Schellenberg
Bader El Hindi
Cast Jan Josef Liefers, Stefan Kurt, Justus von Dohnányi, Devid Striesow, Susanne Wolff, Katharina Matz
Producers Bernd T. Hoefflin, Lars Büchel, Justus von Dohnányi
Production Company element e filmproduktion/Hamburg
Shooting Dates Sylt, Hamburg, Lauenen/Switzerland, Baden-Wuerttemberg, June - July 2006
Sound Technology Dolby SR

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