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Interview: Claudio Fäh • Director

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“We would like the film to be turned into a franchise”


- Cineuropa sat down with Swiss director Claudio Fäh, who has presented his ambitious adventure movie Northmen: A Viking Saga at the Zurich Film Festival

Interview: Claudio Fäh • Director

Swiss director Claudio Fäh, who lives and works in the United States, is for the first time heading up a production from his own country. The ambitious adventure movie Northmen: A Viking Saga [+see also:
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interview: Claudio Fäh
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(read more) tells the story of a group of Vikings’ struggle for survival after a fierce storm leaves them stranded on hostile soil in Scotland. Some unexpected help from an enigmatic monk and an appearance by the daughter of the King of Scotland, whom they take hostage, rounds off this motley crew of heroes. The title, which is co-produced by Switzerland, Germany and South Africa, has just been screened at the Zurich Film Festival and has distribution deals for over 30 countries, with the aim being to turn it into a franchise. 

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Cineuropa: Which aspect of this production was the hardest for you to bring to fruition?
Claudio Fäh: Getting everything to work as a metaphor. The most interesting thing about the film is that it connects the story to current affairs. It’s also important to show emotions despite the fact it relies a great deal on action. The viewer will enjoy watching this chaotic group of men develop – men who, as they gradually straighten out various situations and conflicts, begin to leave their prejudices to one side and start to understand that they have more in common with each other than they think. They are lonely men, stranded far from their homes and their families. In just one boat, three different religions coexist and attempt to survive together. I made the various actors’ personalities work in my favour in order to construct this kaleidoscope of characters. I asked them to add some element of themselves to their characters, so that they would seem more recognisable to the audience in a movie in which everyone has long hair and a beard. 

It’s funny that spaghetti westerns were the most important reference when it came to shooting a Viking movie.
I wanted to use their visual language, their close-ups for example, to make the film seem real, dirty and down to earth. I wasn’t looking to position the camera in impossible places, as happens in sagas like Lord of the Rings, which tend to embrace fantasy too much, with little regard for the laws of physics. My idea was always to make an honest and straightforward movie, like the ones Steven Spielberg used to make in the 1980s and 1990s. Plus, the film has an Italian DoP, Lorenzo Senatore, Daniele Senatore’s son. If anyone knows how to shoot a spaghetti western, it’s Lorenzo. 

Do you and your team intend for the project to be turned into a whole series of films?
It’s an appealing idea. It’s so fashionable because that way you sell three cinema tickets instead of just one. But aside from the economic reasons, we find the idea of telling a more extensive story very exhilarating. We’d perhaps like to explain what happens before and after what goes on in this film. As things stand, it’s just something we’d like to do.

This is an ambitious adventure movie, but the budget is nowhere near that of the big US blockbusters. Is that why the cast doesn’t feature any big international stars?
Yes, but actually it was a good thing that we didn’t have any big names, as it turned out. It’s very common for huge stars to attract all the attention, and for the shoot to revolve around them. I didn’t want the project to turn into the “Sylvester Stallone show”, for instance. This way, we have created a balance: every character and actor has his or her time to shine.

(Translated from Spanish)


international title: Northmen: A Viking Saga
original title: Northmen: A Viking Saga
country: Switzerland, Germany, South Africa
year: 2014
directed by: Claudio Fäh
screenplay: Bastian Zach, Matthias Bauer
cast: Ryan Kwanten, James Norton, Ed Skrein, Charlie Murphy, Tom Hopper, Leo Gregory, Ken Duken

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