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    Bernd Eichinger – In Memoriam

    By Martin Blaney | February 12, 2011

    Bernd Eichinger (1949 – 2011), courtesy Deutsche Filmakademie

    Bernd Eichinger (1949 – 2011), courtesy Deutsche Filmakademie

    KINO – German Film was saddened to hear the news this week of the sudden and unexpected death of Germany’s leading film producer Bernd Eichinger at the age of 61 during a meal with family and friends in Los Angeles on January 24.

    Eichinger, who had received the German Film Academy’s Honorary Award in April 2010, had been currently working on the screenplay for a film about the life of Natascha Kampusch.  One of his latest productions, the German comedy Die Superbullen, was released in german cinemas at the beginning of January.

    A graduate of Munich’s Television and Film Academy (HFF) in 1973, Eichinger founded his first production company, Solaris Film, in 1974 and began a career that was to change the course of the German film industry.

    His early productions brought international attention to a wave of “new German filmmakers” such as Wim Wenders (Falsche Bewegung), Edgar Reitz (Stunde Null), Hans W. Geissendoerfer (Die gläserne Zelle) and Wolfgang Petersen (Die Konsequenz).

    In 1979, he acquired a stake in the Munich-based company Constantin Film and built it up in the following decades into a leading player in the international film industry. Among his most successful international productions were: Wolfgang Petersen’s Die unendliche Geschichte (The Neverending Story), Uli Edel’s Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (Christiane F.) and Last Exit To Brooklyn, Jean Jacques Annaud’s The Name Of The Rose, Doris Doerrie’s Me & Him, Bille August’s The House of Spirits and Smilla’s Sense Of Snow.

    He also co-produced Caroline Link’s Best Foreign Language Oscar-winning Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere In Africa) as well as producing Tom Tykwer’s Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer, the box-office hits Resident Evil and its sequel, Resident Evil: Apocalypse.

    Moreover, Eichinger had Foreign Language Oscar Nominations for Der Untergang (Downfall), starring Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler, and Der Baader-Meinhof-Komplex (The Baader Meinhof Complex) about the terror campaign of the Rote Armee Fraktion.

    Our thoughts are with his widow Katja and his daughter, the 29-year-old TV presenter Nina Eichinger.

    There has been an endless stream of tributes from the worlds of cinema and politics since the news broke on the evening of January 25.

    “Our cinema loses with him not only the most successful producer of the last decades, but also its most passionate motivator and dreamer. Millions are grateful to him for moving film moments,” said Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel in words condolence, while State Minister for Culture and Media Bernd Neumann described the late producer as “the motor of the German cinema – his sure sense for subjects and stories impressed and enthused millions of cinema-goers.”

    “The German film world and all of us will miss him a lot. Germany has lost its most successful filmmaker,” Neumann said.

    Actor-producer-director Til Schweiger, whose latest film Kokowääh had its world premiere in Berlin as the news was made public, paid tribute to his friend and mentor.

    “Without Bernd, I would not be where I am now. Bernd incredibly stuck up for me,” Schweiger recalled. “And Bernd gave me important tips when I said that I would like to produce myself.”

    Meanwhile, in an interview with the Deutsche Welle, Wolfgang Petersen shared some personal insights into the man who worked with him on the 1984 film The Neverending Story – at the time the most expensive German film – as well as being the distributor of his international breakthrough hit The Boat in 1981.

    “Bernd wasn’t just this ‘crazy guy’ who simply can’t be stopped, who is fanatical in his filmmaking. He had another obsession which not many people knew at all. He had an incredible sense for friendship,” Petersen explained. “People were important for him. Whoever he trusted or liked could rely on him 100%. He said very often said: If you have a problem somewhere on the other side of the world, wherever it may be, just call me and I’ll come. And I knew that this was true. And others who were close friends know this as well. He was that kind of guy.”

    In memory of the late producer, the Berlinale was organizing a Special Screening for today, Saturday February 12, of Eichinger’s feature directorial debut Das Mädchen Rosemarie (A Girl Called Rosemarie) which he made in 1996 as one of a series of German Classics commissioned by private broadcaster SAT.1.

    This remake of Rolf Thiele’s 1958 film of the same name starred Heiner Lauterbach and the young discovery Nina Hoss who is a member of this year’s International Jury at the Berlinale.

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