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Scene from “Werther” (photo © Nils Kinder)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 02/2008

Earlier this year saw the filming of Werther, based on Goethe's epistolary novel Die Leiden des jungen Werther, as the third collaboration between writer-director Uwe Janson and the production house teamWorx (after Baal and Lulu).

"A common element linking Werther with the previous two is the fact that the films are drawing on the German theater classics but transporting their ideas in a modern way," says producer Christian Rohde of teamWorx. "I think it has always been exciting to see how we can attract younger people to these plays without frightening them away. The direction was shown with Baal which was very powerful and wild with a young cast. Then we had Lulu with Jessica Schwarz, and Werther has Hannah Herzsprung and Stefan Konarske. We wanted to provide young people with the opportunity to become involved with these texts and stories."

The modern interpretation of Werther is set to be the first part by teamWorx of a Weimar Classics trilogy – to be followed by Die Raeuber and Hyperion – and has prompted the establishment by Janson and Oliver Czeslik of a new production outfit, sturmunddrangfilm, which is based in Weimar and Berlin and intends to focus on adapting German theater classics for the screen.

As Rohde points out, there has been considerable interest from branches of the Goethe-Institut around the globe in these productions, but they are made primarily for the German market with premieres on the Franco-German channel ARTE followed by screenings on the ZDFtheaterkanal.

"In Werther we have a mixture of realistic and artificial worlds," he continues. "After principal photography was completed, a week was spent on computer animation to create a virtual reality based on Second Life. In Goethe's original, Werther's feeling for poetry is always misunderstood by the world around him. We then asked ourselves what a world would look like nowadays where he is constantly rejected. We decided that this would be a computer world where everything is anything but poetic. The avatar of Werther is not understood when he speaks the original texts of Goethe – only Lotte's avatar understands him."

For the casting of the lead roles of Werther and Lotte, the producers had extensive casting sessions with different combinations of actors and were soon sure that they had the right pairing with Stefan Konarske and Hannah Herzsprung. Konarske is better known for his theater work, having won two Newcomer Actor awards last year for his performance as Orestes in a Deutsches Theater production, while Herzsprung's career has taken leaps and bounds since her award-winning lead part in Chris Kraus' Four Minutes.

"We always look to have someone people will know, as that makes the production more accessible, and then we want to give young, wild, up-and-coming actors a chance to be involved," Rohde explains.

"Stefan is a modern Werther who possesses an enormous intelligence as an actor, which immediately filled us with enthusiasm during the casting session," Oliver Czeslik recalls in a interview for the blog diary chronicling the film's shooting. "In his acting with Hannah Herzsprung it was then clear that the two are a dream couple. Intuition and intelligence – I think these are the characteristics uniting them and making them an image of longing for young lovers."


Year of Production 2008
Director Uwe Janson
Screenplay Uwe Janson
Cinematography Philipp Sichler
Florian Drechsler
Olaf Rehahn
Cast Stefan Konarske, Hannah Herzsprung, Aaron Hildebrand, David Rott, Fritz Roth
Producers Christian Rohde, Oliver Czeslik, Uwe Janson, Sigi Kamml
Production Company teamWorx Television & Film/Potsdam, in co-production with sturmunddrangfilm/Weimar, 3sat/Mainz, in cooperation with ARTE for ZDF
Format color
Shooting Dates Berlin, Ilmenau, Schmiedefeld, Zella-Mehlres, Suhl, February 2008
Sound Technology Stereo
Festivals Hamptons 2008

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