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Love and Other Crimes (Liebe und andere Verbrechen)

Love and Other Crimes
Director Stefan Arsenijevic (right) on the set of “Liebe und andere Verbrechen” (photo © COIN Film/Biljana Ristivojcevic)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 02/2007

After working together on the omnibus film Lost and Found which opened the Berlinale's Forum section in 2005, Belgrade-born filmmaker Stefan Arsenijevic and German producer Herbert Schwering of COIN Film have collaborated again on the young Serbian director's feature film debut, the tragicomedy Liebe und andere Verbrechen (translation: “Love and Other Crimes”) which wrapped at the end of March. The film is the first production by Herbert Schwering with his new company COIN Film (formerly ICON Film)

Expectations are running high after Arsenijevic's numerous short films, including (A)torsion from 2003 which won the European Film Award, a Berlin Golden Bear and a nomination for the Academy Award's Best Fiction Short category. "I feel quite different," says Arsenijevic about the transition from short to a feature-length shoot. "The whole shooting will be as many days I had for my shorts, it feels strange and it's like I am running a marathon!"

"Liebe und andere Verbrechen is about a woman who is not satisfied with her life in contemporary Serbia and decides to steal some money and escape from the country forever," Arsenijevic explains. "The film follows her over the course of this last day from morning to evening. In the evening, she is supposed to steal the money and leave and we see her meeting people who were part of her life; she is now able to take some small acts of revenge and tell them what she really thought of them, to leave some presents and make a quiet departure from her imperfect life. But, then on that very day – since life is not easy and simple – a boy from the neighborhood who is more than ten years younger tells her that he is in love with her and their relationship develops during this day. At the end of the day, she will have to decide what she is going to do."

"In a way, the film deals with the Serbia of today and will give us a picture of the life of the main character and the situation and feeling in Serbia nowadays," he continues. "It also looks at one topic which is really important here and that is of emigration: in the last 15 years because of the war and so on, 300,000 people left Serbia and it is mainly young people who went. This is so present in our lives and everyone of us knows someone who left. As a young person, you keep asking yourself whether you should go or not. I had an urge to deal with this issue and show how hard it is to make this decision."

As Arsenijevic points out, it would "usually be hard to make a co-production on such a movie because it is so very much based in the neighborhood of New Belgrade where I grew up. It is very, very local even though there is a universal story. I see it as a very intimate film and, in a way, it is my Amarcord."

Nevertheless, his feature debut has been structured as a co-production between Germany, Serbia, Austria and Slovenia for the financing of the €1.43 million budget and drew its cast and crew from the four countries. "I shot almost all of my short films here, but I had the feeling that I lost my objective view of the space," Arsenijevic explains. "So, my idea was to invite the DoP (Simon Tansek from Slovenia) and production designer (Volker Schaefer from Germany) from outside to come and see things objectively. This really helped me because they have a similar taste as I do and we were going through New Belgrade together and seeing things afresh through their eyes."

The central role of Anica who is planning to turn her back on her homeland is played by Anica Dobra (equally familiar to audiences in Serbia and Germany thanks to her appearances in Doris Doerrie's Am I Beautiful? and Enlightenment Guaranteed as well as Srdan Golubovic's 2007 Berlinale film The Trap), while the part of her young admirer Stanislav is taken by Vuk Kostic (star of Golubovic's 2001 drama Absolute Hundred), with other roles cast with veteran Serbian actress Milena Dravic and the young German actress Hanna Schwamborn (Good Bye, Lenin!).

Meanwhile, the international flavor is continued behind the camera: production designer Volker Schaefer, who, among other things, created the sets at Cologne's MMC Studios for Amelie from Montmartre, brought his art department team to Belgrade; Veronika Albert, sister of filmmaker Barbara Albert, is serving as co-costume designer, with NRW-based Georg Nonnenmacher (whose recent credits include The Wind That Shakes The Barley and Paradise Now) as gaffer, and Hamburg-based editor Andrew Bird (Head-On) coming to Cologne to work on the edit over the coming months.

Genre Drama
Category Feature
Year of Production 2007
Director Stefan Arsenijevic
Screenplay Stefan Arsenijevic
Cinematography Simon Tansek
Andrew Bird
Volker Schaefer
Cast Anica Dobra, Milena Dravic, Vuk Kostic, Hanna Schwamborn
Producer Herbert Schwering
Production Company COIN FILM/Cologne, in co-production with Art & Popcorn/Belgrade, AMOUR FOU Vienna, Studio Arkadena/Trzin
Format 35 mm, color
Shooting Dates Belgrade, February - March 2007
Sound Technology Dolby Digital
Festivals Sofia 2008 (In Competition), Karlovy Vary 2008, Seattle 2008, Warsaw 2008, Ghent 2008, Molodist Kiev 2008, Hong Kong 2009
With backing from Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, BKM, Robert Bosch Stiftung, Eurimages, City of Belgrade, Serbian Ministry of Culture, South Eastern European Cinema Network, Vienna Film Fund, Hubert Bals Fund, ACE, WDR, BMW Group
German Distributor Pandora Film Verleih

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