“The Silent Mountain” is a borderland movie, filmed in places located in three different regions. The three regions have joined their logistical and financial forces to tell a story set in a period when there were no borders between them.
Before the “Great War”, the First World War that marked the break-up of the Austrian-Hungarian empire and a new political geography. “The war left many problems in its wake, the aftermath was characterized by hate and rivalry between these peoples, so it is particularly wonderful and significant that, today, these three regions can work on a movie like this together,” says Luca Ferrario, head of the Trentino Film Commission along with Laura Zumiani.
The movie is a work of fiction but it is based on events that really took place which the director Ernst Gossner learned about from soldiers’ diaries while he was working on a documentary about the Dolomites during the war. The leading characters are Andreas and Francesca, a young couple who meet and fall in love during the wedding celebrations for their respective sister and brother, just before the First World War breaks out, a tragic event that would divide their destinies.
The movie opens with the wedding scene which was also the first scene to be filmed at the Grand Hotel Golf Mendola in Trentino, Ruffrè, Val di Non, where 20% of the movie was made. The area is the Passo della Mendola, a place that mirrors the spirit of this movie particularly well. This is mainly because the Passo della Mendola is actually on the border between Trentino and Alto Adige (in fact, part of the crew stayed in the hotel itself, in Trentino, whereas the actors slept at the Hotel Penegal, just 100 meters away, but in the Alto Adige region). This location was an actual tourist destination in the early years of the last century where the well-to-do citizens of Bolzano, as well as Austrians, took refuge during the summer months to escape from the heat of the city.
Johannes Koeck: an interesting mixture of Austrian locations and Italian film-makers
“It wasn’t easy to find a hotel that looked as though it came from that period”, says Heinz Stussak, the producer from Sigma Film: “the Grand Hotel Golf Mendola was particularly suitable, also because it is enclosed. Initially we wanted to film in a hotel that overlooks Lake Braies, but it was impossible because it had already been ‘booked’ as the set for “Un Passo dal Cielo”, and in any case, it would have been difficult to adapt it. Even at the Grand Hotel we had to construct a platform, a fence, repaint the walls and redo the floors. Basically, there was a lot of preparation to do and it took around 2- 3 weeks to make the location suitable for our story.” The adaptation was carried out by T&P Filmpool, a pool of companies coordinated by Peter Trenkwalder.
But let’s go back to the story: the day after the wedding Andreas is sent to the new front line, in the mountains. The Tyrol region was crushed by the First World War which transformed the Dolomites into one of the bloodiest battlegrounds in the history of humanity.
“The Dolomites are an important part of this movie because the won- derful nature to be found there caused the death of 80% of the victims of that war”, continues Stussak. Between the Val Badia and Cortina d’Ampezzo, on the border between the provinces of Bolzano and Belluno (in the Cinque Torri area), there is a war museum which has “reconstructed trenches and tunnels dug out of the rock that we were able to use. However, since this is a protected area,the more violent action scenes such as, for example, those involving explosions, had to be moved to the Austrian Tyrol”.
“For 7 days in July the crew filmed near the city of Lienz, where we found a beautiful canyon that was easy to access and dramatically perfect for the battle scenes”,says Johannes Koeck, head of the Cinetirol Film Commission, which lent its support to the movie to the tune of 50,000 Euros.
“During filming we established a friendly cooperation that was creatively constructive and featured an interesting mixture of Austrian and Italian filmmakers. I truly believe that there will be more and more collaborations between the three regions and the three film commissions because there are many interesting stories, both contemporary and historical, that connect these three areas and can thus be filmed in a collaborative form”.
Luca Ferrario: our first major period movie
The scene of the flight of the Italians after Italy declared war on Austria was filmed in Piazza Duomo in Trento.
Luca Ferrario explains: “This was a very important scene for us because it is the only one in the whole movie that has a clear geographical reference. This is our first major costume movie and we were very grateful to the production company: they were only obliged to hire local people for the duration of the filming in Trentino, but they decided to keep the same people even when they were filming in other areas, and that meant a lot to us”.
The skilled workers (ten or so per region) were the true link between Trentino and Alto Adige, the strongest adhesive between the two territories: we spoke to Alberto Battocchi, from Trento, the assistant director, and Kati Lionelli, from Alto Adige, the location manager.
“The Trentino Film Commission was obviously asked for people who spoke German and English and had previous experience of international productions. The Film Commission has done very well and is committed to training people who are able to amalgamate different cultures and production techniques, as happens on international productions, an increasing number of which are coming here” explains Batocchi, who was also responsible for coordinating almost 500 extras. In fact, the extras constituted the production company’s biggest investment in terms of local human resources in the area and this made Stussak particularly happy: “We found some extras who were really good and patient. Being in a period movie means long sessions in makeup and wardrobe. They helped us a lot and that was by no means a given”, says the producer, adding “we didn’t hire many local technicians because there are not many of them, but it is just a question of waiting for a few years while they are trained up.”
Skilled workers: the true link between Trentino, Alto Adige and Tyrol
Kati Lionelli explains: “This is the first time I have worked in my province: until now I have always worked with German or Austrian production companies filming in Lombardy, Veneto or Tuscany. I learned a lot from the other location manager, my Austrian colleague Gerhard Ziegner, who is specialized in managing high altitude mountain sets and locations. Thanks to this movie,” explains Lionelli “lots of people were trained up. There were also five kids from the Zelig school doing an internship. I really hope that this sort of experience will be repeated because it is important and very pleasant to be able to work in your own region”.
Christiana Wertz, Head of the BLS Film Fund and Commission, is also very satisfied about the use of local crew (“even people who hadn’t had much experience before this movie and were very enthusiastic”). But, she emphasizes: “we are very aware that this type of request made by a Film Commission to a production company in exchange for support can create a certain amount of difficulty, or slow things down”.
These requests will increase as the number of territories offering support to movies grow. One very valid criterion is to “follow the story”. Ferrario says: “Where the story requires the project to be shared, it makes sense to coordinate with others right from the start. In these cases I propose a healthy collaboration between Film Commissions, especially for projects that, whilst valid, are considered to be high risk. In other cases healthy competition is a good thing”.
Christiana Wertz: a win win situation is fundamental
It is obvious that for new projects or companies there is a greater perceived risk, and in these cases, united we stand, divided we fall, as the saying goes”.
Ferrario continues: “When the movie came to us it already had contributions from another two Film Commissions. We contacted them to hear what they thought of the project and to exchange ideas about how to move forward. It is important to know that an organization similar to your own has given a positive assessment to the same project you are financing, because it reinforces your conviction that it is going to be a winner”.
BLS has also done the same thing in the past, explains Wertz: “When we decided to give our support, we interacted a lot with our colleagues at the ÖFI (Österr. Filminstitut), who gave the greatest financial support to the movie because they knew the Austrian production company much better than us. In the end, we managed it, also thanks to the fact that we joined forces. I am open to collaborating with other regions if it results in a ‘win win situation’”. This requires a certain amount of flexibility: “Recently”, explains Wertz, “we supported a project that had guaranteed us 10 days of filming in Alto Adige. In the end, some of it was filmed in Rovereto as well (without the contribution of the Film Commission) because they needed a special location that they couldn’t find here, and we lost 3 out of the 10 days agreed. However, we were happy to accept it anyway in order to promote the region in a more general sense and in light of the fact that, in any case, we are a single region”.
And, as they await the release of the movie, which should take place between summer and fall 2013, they are already thinking about the premiere: “It would be great to have a big event with all the institutional bodies from the various regions, thus demonstra- ting the unity of these three territories on a political level as well”, concludes Wertz.
CLAUDIA CARDINALE, GUEST STAR OF THE MOVIE
“The Silent Mountain” is a movie directed by Ernst Gossner, produced by the director himself along with Heinz Stussak for Sigma Film and Vent Productions Inc. (associate producer Reinhold Bilgeri).
It is a story about love and war set in the territory of the former Austrian-Hungarian empire: Trentino, Alto Adige and the Austrian Tyrol. The movie stars William Moseley and Eugenia Costantini, and there is also a special guest star: Claudia Cardinale. Filming began on the movie on June 16th at the Passo della Mendola (2 weeks), continuing for another two weeks at Cinque Torri, on the border between Bolzano and Belluno (in Val Badia and Cortina d’Ampezzo).
The film has a budget of 4.5 million Euros, 3 million of which come from Austria (ÖFI Österr. Filminstitut, FISA Filmstandort Austria, ORF, FFW Film Fonds Wien, Cine Tirol). It will also receive contributions from the BLS (550,000 Euros) and the Trentino Film Commission (160,000 thousand Euros).
The international sales will be handled by EastWest Filmdistribution.