"Zwingli" is one of the most expensive Swiss productions of all time – and not just a sympathetic historical figure. No wonder, the excitement felt by the decision makers.
"The Swiss <Braveheart?" – Director Stefan Haupt smiles as "Bluewin" addresses him in an interview in Zurich's "Zunfthaus zur Waag". In fact, his film was often compared in advance with the Scottish Freedom War. Parallels to "Game of Thrones" were also drawn. Maybe it's because "Zwingli" effects from a German studio related, which also works for the fantasy series.
But let's be honest: With a Mel Gibson, including war paint or kit "Jon Snow" Harington, not only the Swiss Zwingli actor Max Simonischek has much in common. If you ignore the fact that he definitely fits into the category of an attractive action star. But "Zwingli" can cost almost six million francs, making it one of the most expensive Swiss productions of all time. With Hollywood or a shiny series on Netflix, the movie still has little to do.
"Authenticity" is also a word that Stefan Haupt ("Der Kreis", "Elisabeth Kübler-Ross – to see death in the face") often needs. It was important for him to be able to abduct the audience to Zurich in the 16th century – and let it feel the needs of the era at that time. That is why medieval Zurich in Zwingli does not look like dreamy as a knight or fantasy film, but real, dark and oppressive. The streets are narrow, dirty and smelly, life is hard, people are sick, the faces of the figures tell it.
Only one person is in a good mood: Huldrych Zwingli is not portrayed by the 36-year-old Max Simonischek as a passionate ascetic, but rather as a kind of bonvivant. When he arrives in Zurich at the beginning of the movie with Leo Jud in Zurich, played by Anatole Taubman ("James Bond – A Quantum of Solace"), he is euphoric as a little boy. He is in doubt with another priest, falls in love with the attractive widow Anna Reinhart (played well by Sarah Sophia Meyer) – and even when his mission prisoners grab him and he becomes a great reformer of Zurich's church, he remains most friendly, empathetic, often even full of humor.
If Simonischek's interpretation of the figure coincides with the historical Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531), Stefan Haupt does not know either. But his own image of the reformer has already been very different from the usual notion before the shooting began, he is. He was "shocked" to learn how negative the name Zwingli is in many circles today. For the 57-year-old director, this is almost not understandable: the more he learned during his research at Zwingli, "the more cheerful and sympathetic he has become to me". It was not his requirement to shoot as completed a Bio-Pic as possible over the still polarizing figure. He would rather show how sustainable and positive Zwingli achievements have changed society. Haupt: "This is the real play for me – because we are taking advantage of Zwingli's reforms today".
Dark, captivating – successful?
Just wonder if it will look like the audience. Admittedly, "Zwingli" with his theatrical release is expected to attract broad interest for over 500 years after the reformer took up his position as a priest in Grossmünster. The recorders can also trust that some school class will see the main movie rather than a story or religious lesson. The teachers will not be bothered by the fact that the film reminds a bit of school television in places, despite the gloomy settings and gripping actresses.
But the challenge for a movie of this size (and the content) will be to bring the regular audience to the cinema. He was actually "incredibly curious" about how the film works for the general public, says Anatole Taubman. Fortunately, one finds himself "in good time for Swiss films," then Zurich. Max Simonischek, on the other hand, admits he would have liked to play a little more Hollywood. But Stefan Haupt had chosen not just for budget reasons "another approach".
So Huldrych Zwingli must retire 500 years later. Not against hedonism in the church this time, but against a mass audience who is spoiled by superheroes, affects CGI and non-stop action.
So there is a little "Braveheart", the film by Stefan Haupt.
"Zwingli" by Stefan Haupt with Max Simonischek, Anatole Taubman and Sarah Sophia Meyer will be released on Thursday 17 January in Swiss cinemas.
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