Shooting wraps for Maria Brendle’s Friedas Fall
by Teresa Vena
- The first feature-length film by the Swiss director is a historical drama based on a real-life case that shook her home country in 1904
The month of August and the beginning of September saw the shoot take place for Friedas Fall (lit. “Frieda's Case”), the first feature by Swiss director Maria Brendle. The director first enjoyed success with her short Ala Kachuu, which was nominated for the Academy Award in the category of Best Live-action Short Film in 2022. Shot in the eastern part of Switzerland, namely in the cities of Winterthur and St Gall, and the area of Thurgovia, the drama is based on true events.
In 1904, there was a case that shook Switzerland: Frieda Keller was sentenced to death. A former victim of rape, the 25-year-old seamstress killed her son Ernstli, whose father was her attacker, and buried the five-year-old’s body in the forest. Shortly afterwards, the body was found, and the woman – a distraught mother, victim and perpetrator all at once – confessed to the crime. In addition to the authorities and her own family, the misogynistic laws of that time were also stacked against her.
Despite fierce protests from the populace, Frieda was first sentenced to death at the end of a public trial in St Gall in front of hundreds of onlookers, and was subsequently “pardoned” with a life sentence in solitary confinement. Not only was the bigoted pardon a disgrace, but the fact that her rapist, the married man Carl Zimmerli, was never brought to justice was shameful. Indeed, the law at the time protected married men who assaulted women.
The spectacular case raises the question of how much of a victim there is in the perpetrator. It significantly influenced debates on women's rights and a fairer society, as well as the development of the criminal justice system in Switzerland. The historical material was reworked in 2015 by Michèle Minelli in the historical novel Die Verlorene (lit. “The Lost One”). Minelli also wrote the screenplay for this movie together with co-writer Robert Buchschwenter (Hinterland [+see also:
interview: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Director Maria Brendle is adapting the historical story with an ensemble of Swiss actors. Newcomer Julia Buchmann has been hired for the title role of Frieda Keller. By her side are Swiss actors Max Simonischek (The Neighbours from Upstairs, Zwingli [+see also:
film profile]), playing young lawyer Arnold Janggen, who initially sees little success in defending his client; and Stefan Merki (The Goldfish [+see also:
film profile]), breathing life into public prosecutor and prison warden Walter Gmür, who is stuck in an unwanted, childless marriage with his wife Erna, played by Rachel Braunschweig (Neumatt [+see also:
series profile], Spagat [+see also:
interview: Christian Johannes Koch
film profile], Zwingli).
Friedas Fall is a co-production by Condor Films AG in Zurich and Swiss TV channels SRF/SRG SSR, with support from the cultural sponsorship of the cantons of Thurgovia and St Gall, the city of St Gall, BAK Succès Cinéma, the Zurich Film Foundation and other private foundations. Distribution will be assured by Praesens-Film AG.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.