On Monday, the 19th and Wednesday, the 21st of December, both at 8:15pm, the German public channel ZDF shows the great historic two-part movie Gotthard – Progress At Any Cost.
Tormented love. Murderous rivalry. Life and death in the heart of a mountain.
Switzerland, 1873. Men from all over Europe are flocking to a tiny village to work on the biggest and most spectacular construction site of modern times: the Gotthard tunnel!
The town is bursting at the seams and the prices for rooms are skyrocketing. In the bustle and confusion, three young people forge a friendship that defies differences of social class to tackle dramas together: the German engineer Max, lucid, balanced, born to a well-to-do family, a born mediator and shy suitor to the innkeeper’s daughter, Anna. The lively, cocky young woman knows all about men – and about heartache: she decided to concentrate on business instead of love… And Tommaso? The hot-headed Italian from the lower classes is deeply, passionately in love with Anna and cannot hide his feelings.
Max knows that he cannot challenge Tommaso for Anna’s love, and soon, the trio faces a growing tension between Tommaso, who becomes the spokesman of the miners, and Max, who struggles to be loyal to his employer and his friends.
Gotthard – Progress At Any Cost was developed under the direction of the Swiss broadcaster SRF, in the television editorial departments of SRF, ZDF, ORF, and RSI. It is a co-production of Zodiac Pictures (Zurich/Lucerne, Switzerland), MMC Zodiac (Cologne, Germany) and Wilma Film (Prague, Czech Republic). The Swiss broadcasting corporation SRG SSR acts as national co-producer. Beta Film is responsible for the international distribution.
The event mini-series is backed by the Film- und Medienstiftung NRW (Film Foundation North Rhine-Westphalia), the Zurich Film Foundation, the Swiss Teleproduction Fund, MFG Baden-Württemberg, the Czech Cinematography Fund, the film funding program of the Central Swiss Cantons, as well as Switzerland‘s Federal Office of Culture (BAK).
In November 2012, when the producers Lukas Hobi and Reto Schaerli (Zodiac Pictures) presented the idea of a two-part movie on the first construction of the railway tunnel, Gotthard, to the editorial department of the Swiss broadcasting company SRF, there was immediately huge interest in the project.
International partnerships were essential for this large-scale project. The Swiss broadcaster SRF reached out to German and Austrian broadcasters ZDF and ORF. Both TV stations were interested right from the start. In Spring 2015, when the screenplay by Stefan Dähnert was presented, they decided to realize the film together.
The initiators engaged the MMC Studios in Cologne (Germany) as international production partners. In the course of the location search, it became clear that the realization of the tunnel portal was only possible in the Czech Republic—this is when the Czech production company, Wilma Film, became the third co-producer of the project.
On September 1st, 2015, the clapper fell for the first time and shooting under the direction of Urs Egger went on until November 27th, 2015. In 59 days of shooting the team worked in three different countries.
The scenery for the village Göschenen in Switzerland, at the entrance to the tunnel, was set up in the Swiss village of Valendas (Canton of Graubünden). With a huge effort, the production design team restored the village to its appearance at the time of the tunnel construction. The Swiss part of the shooting then continued in Lucerne.
For the filming of the tunnel construction site, the film crew went to a quarry, outside of Prague. The scenery of a village by the tunnel was created starting with nothing.
The last part of the shooting took place in a huge hall outside of Cologne. MMC’s Art Department team built the record-breaking 300-feet long replica of the historic Gotthard tunnel spread over an area of more than 21,000 square feet after the production design by Knut Loewe.
Here, explosions, detonations, water penetrations, rock falls and many other spectacular effects were staged for the elaborate, historical two-part movie.
On August, 2nd, 2016, the world premiere of Gotthard – Progress At Any Cost was presented as a special screening during the pre-festival on the Piazza Grande, a day before the official opening of the 69th Festival del Film Locarno.
Lukas Hobi and Reto Schaerli look back on an eventful, four-year long production: “‘Gotthard’ has so far been our most ambitious project. The enormous challenges could only be mastered thanks to the support of an outstanding team and loyal partners. We now look forward to share the film with the audience.
Photo: Gotthard – Progress At Any Cost: Tommaso (Pasquale Aleardi, left), Max (Maxim Mehmet, right) and Anna (Miriam Stein, middle) – friends forever? © ZDF / Daniel Ammann