Mercy and Two Lives: First Norwegian-German co-productions in 34 years
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
05/09/2011 - The ’internationalisation’ of the Norwegian film industry, following the signing of the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production, has also sparked off the first Norwegian-German co-productions in 34 years: German directors Matthias Glasner’s Mercy and Georg Maas’s Two Lives.
Scripted by Danish writer Kim Fupz Aakeson, Mercy was shot at Hammerfest in Norway – the world’s most northern city - where Glassner directed Jürgen Vogel (The Free Will) and Birgit Minichmayr as a German couple who have emigrated with their 13-year-old son in the hopes of getting a better life together. But soon Nils – an engineer - finds a mistress, and Maria concentrates on work at the hospital, where she is a nurse.
Driving home one night, Maria hits what she thinks is an animal; the following day she realises it was a teenage girl. She tells her husband, and the secret reunites them in a marriage of new, strong love – then comes the feeling of guilt. With 80% of the budget from Germany and ZDF Theaterkanal involved, Kristine Knudsen and Glasner, of Germany’s Knudsen & Streuber Filmproduktionand Schwarzweiss Filmproduktion, has produced the €2.2m Mercy, with Norway’s Aage Aaberge, of Neofilm.
German actress Juliane Köhler (Downfall [trailer, film focus]) is currently learning Norwegian to play the lead in Two Lives, co-starring with Sven Nordin, Julia Bache-Wiig, Rainer Bock and Liv Ullmann. The €3.1 million family drama-political thriller is packaged by Norwegian producer Axel Helgeland’s Helgeland Films AS, with Denmark’s Per Holst, of Asta Film ApS, Germany’s Dieter Zeppenfeld and Rudi Teichmann, of Zinnober Film and B&T Film.
Maas’ original story has a background in Norwegian-German history: many children born to Norwegian mothers and German soldier fathers during the WW2 Nazi occupation of Norway were sent to Germany, where they grew up at East German orphans’ homes. The STASI state police would steal their identities and use them for spies planted in the West. One of them, a woman – 45 years old, married, a successful photographer, living in Norway – is about to be caught up by her past.