A new film on the musical legacy of the Terezín concentration camp is being shot on location

The love story will combine the tales of fictitious and real-life characters who celebrated culture in extreme conditions.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 03.09.2021 13:00 (updated on 03.09.2021)

A new film about musicians at the Terezín concentration camp is now being filmed at locations in the Czech Republic. The Italian-Czech-Slovak co-production titled “Terezin” is being shot in English, and is expected to hit screens next year. Filming started Aug. 30 and should finish by the end of October.

Terezín (Theresienstadt) was the site of a concentration camp and ghetto used by the Nazis during the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia in World War. During the war, transports of Jews, first from Bohemia and Moravia and then from other countries, such as Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, Austria, and Denmark, arrived there.

Over 155,000 Jews were gradually sent to Terezín. Some died there due to malnutrition and disease, most of the rest were sent from there to extermination camps such as Auschwitz. Only 23,000 of the camp's inhabitants are thought to have survived to the end of the war.

Despite the conditions, the camp had an unusually rich cultural life, as many prominent musicians and artists were sent there. Concerts were even staged for visitors, who were only shown a small part of the camp that had been cleaned up as a showcase.

The new film currently under production uses two fictitious main characters to explore that musical legacy. Antonio, an Italian clarinetist, and Martina, a Czech violinist, meet in Prague and fall in love with each other during World War II.

“Shortly afterwards they will be deported to the Terezín concentration camp where their love story is intertwined with the incredible stories of the many Central European Jewish artists and intellectuals imprisoned in Terezín,” Italian film production company Minerva Pictures states.

“Despite being in such an oppressive place, [they] succeed in staging an incredible series of cultural activities that became essential survival tools,” Minerva Pictures adds.

The film will be the directorial debut of Gabriele Guidi, who also wrote the script along with Ennio Speranza and Alessandro Zannoni. The lead role of Antonio will be played by Mauro Conte, whose previous credits include the wartime drama “Rainbow: A Private Affair” and André Téchiné's romantic drama “In the Name of My Daughter,” set in France in the 1970s.

Martina will be played by Czech actress Dominika Morávková. She had the lead roles in the Czech-Slovak co-productions “Little Feather” (Pirko) and “Filthy” (Špína). Slovak-born Antónia Lišková, who has made a career modeling and acting in Italy, also appears in the cast.

Several actors will play real characters. Jan Révai will appear as composer Hans Krása, Marek Lambor as artist Petr Kien, Cesare Bocci as composer Rafael Schächter, Petr Vaňek as composer Viktor Ullman, and Romanian actress Maia Morgenstern as Austrian painter Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. Morgenstern is best-known for portraying Mary in Mel Gibson's “The Passion of the Christ.”

The story of Terezín has been told on screen before, but mostly in documentaries. French director Claude Lanzmann, known for the series “Shoah,” tackled the topic in 2013 in “The Last of the Unjust.” The 1994 BBC film “The Music of Terezín” focuses on the musical legacy. The 2006 documentary “Ghetto Theresienstadt: Deception and Reality” examines the camp’s role in deceiving inspectors, who only saw selected parts that were created to show a misleading depiction of conditions.

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