Vitus seeks young blood
by Mathieu Loewer
- Eight years after Vollmond, together with a young team, Fredi M. Murer makes his return to fiction
A long drawn-out project, Vitus [+see also:
interview: Christian Davi
interview: Fredi M. Murer
film profile] marks the powerful return of renowned Swiss German director Fredi M. Murer, credited with a Bronze Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. A new exploration of childhood, a theme dear to the director of Alpine Fire, this much awaited fiction came about in the end through successful collaboration between the sixty-six year-old filmmaker, and young producers from the Zurich-based company Hugofilm.
Your last fiction dates from 1998. Why this long “silence”?
Fredi M. Murer: We started writing the script for Vitus in August of 2000. A year later, we had a version ready to start filming. For two years, my producer tried to set up a European co-production, in vain, because our partners proposed ever more unacceptable conditions. Even Eurimages turned down the project eight votes to one. In short, in 2003, the project was more or less dead. As I had the rights for the book, I decided to make a low-budget film financed in Switzerland. To do this, I created a small company and I spent a year looking for funding, while looking for a twelve year-old actor to play Vitus, as in the end whether the film would be made or not depended on him. Between the discovery of the “rare bird” and Vitus’s theatrical release, two years went by. Besides the contribution of ARTE, the film was financed exclusively in Switzerland.
How did your collaboration with the producers at Hugofilm come about?
To return to searching financing, I made a collective documentary called Downtown Switzerland with three directors, each one also a producer of their own part of the documentary. I also met Christian Davi and his partner Christof Neracher of Hugofilm. As I was looking for an executive producer, I called "Hugos". In the end, we founded Vitusfilm by sharing the responsibility for production: they had the last word on production-related matters and I, on artistic matters. If we disagreed, we tried to reach a consensus. I can tell you that today we are a kind of United Artists. If one of us had not been there, Vitus would at least have been good.
A young filmmaker wrote the script.
Since 2000, I have written at least twenty versions of a script with Lukas B. Suter. I was nearly blind in the end! With the plan of making a low-budget film, I urgently set about finding someone who could see the story in a new light. At the time, I had seen Verflixt verliebt by Peter Luisi in the cinema. I was so taken by his humour and cinematic innovation that I wrote him a fan letter. We met and, although he could be my son, he was quite mature, and I was young enough for both of us to be on the same wavelength.
Theo Gheorghiu, international piano laureate, plays the role of Vitus with such ease that one could imagine that it was he who inspired the film.
The script and the dialogues had already been written when I discovered Theo, who was not a source of inspiration for the story that the film tells. It was his genuine talent as a young pianist that made the character seem very credible. He did nevertheless inspire several scenes that were not included in the script.