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Fredi M Murer • Director

“I really wanted to bring this story to the silver screen”


- For his new film, Liebe & Zufall, Swiss writer/director Fredi M Murer received financial support from Teo Gheorghiu, who performed as a young pianist in Vitus

Fredi M Murer  • Director

With his new movie, Liebe & Zufall [+see also:
film review
film profile
, the award-winning Swiss writer/director Fredi M Murer has delivered his most personal film to date: the script was inspired by his mother's autobiography. But there is also an interdependency between fiction and reality when it comes to the financing of this movie. Part of the budget was raised by up-and-coming pianist Teo Gheorghiu, the lead actor in Murer's last film, Vitus [+see also:
film review
interview: Christian Davi
interview: Fredi M. Murer
film profile
, who gave a benefit concert in the Tonhalle in Zurich. Vega Film will release Liebe & Zufall in Switzerland on 30 October.

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Cineuropa: Is Liebe & Zufall a true story?
Fredi M Murer: My film is based on the novel Liebe & Zufall, which my mother wrote at the age of 74. None of her six children knew that she was writing books after our father passed away. When she turned 90, she gave me her handwritten novels and made the comment that these stories might attract an audience if I brought them to the big screen. For me, that was an affront but also a challenge. At first, I put her books on the shelf, but when I read her autobiography later on, I found out incredible things that I had not been aware of. I really wanted to bring this story to the silver screen.

What is it about?
It is about that first great love that often remains unfulfilled. An old couple, an as-yet unsuccessful author of 75 and a mediocre architect of 79, are discussing themes such as love, death and farewells with a sarcastic sense of humour. Depressing things like illness are not an issue for them. When the woman goes to see her doctor, he is replaced by a young medic. She looks at him, mutters a name, puts her arms around his neck, kisses him and faints. When she wakes up, she is embarrassed. The young doctor looks exactly like the love of her life, who emigrated to the US 60 years beforehand. She never saw him again but dreamed her whole life about being with him. 

Why didn't she go with him?
Her mother didn't want her to go to the US. In 1920, it took about three months to travel overseas. As a widow, the mother wanted her eldest daughter to stay at home, and so she seized all the man's letters. After three years, the young woman believed that he had forgotten about her and married another man. Only after her mother died did she find out the truth. This inspired me to make the movie. 

Was it hard to find the right cast?
It is especially difficult to find great actors aged over 75 or 80 in a small country like Switzerland. For the female part, I took on Swiss stage actress Sibylle Brunner, who has been living in Germany for 40 years. The lead male part is played by the 78-year-old German actor Werner Rehm, who had worked with directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Peter Stein.

Most of the film was shot in Switzerland. Was that helpful in terms of financing?
Our budget was about CHF 3 million. One-third was supported by the Bundesamt für Kultur, and Swiss TV stepped in with quite a considerable amount, too. But I didn't get any support from the Zurich Film Foundation, even though I have been living and working in Zurich for decades. It took me almost two years to close the gap.

How did you do that?
By fundraising. We received about one million Swiss francs from private investors following a concert by Teo Gheorghiu, who had played the 12-year-old pianist in my last film, Vitus. When he heard that I don't get any support in my home town, he suggested the idea of holding a benefit concert in the Tonhalle in Zurich. A public concert would have been too expensive in terms of marketing, but we found three companies who paid for a concert by Teo. With Vitus I supported his career as a pianist, and now he has done the same for me.

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