TORONTO—The 30 years’ war and the plague in 17th century Germany leave a 13-year-old boy named Krabat an orphan. In search of food and shelter, he is mysteriously guided to a mill, and becomes the owner’s apprentice. However, he soon learns that the mill is a school of black magic, and there is a high price to pay for the Master’s lessons. Love, friendship, and loyalty save the young man from imminent death.
Krabat is a German film, directed by Marco Keutzpaintner, and based on the famous novel by Otfried Preussler. Based on a German folk tale, the novel became a kids’ sensation in Germany and sold 2.1 million copies around the world.
The film is a visual feast abounding in period costumes, spectacular mountain tracking shots, and CGI effects that make the black magic tricks a reality. The cast draws very strong performances from Daniel Bruhl (Good Bye Lenin!), David Cross, and Robert Stadlober. Characters are not only fully emerged in the epoch, but also establish strong connections among themselves, and with the audience.
Director Marco Keutzpaintner pegs Krabat as a good family movie.
“I think we ran pretty close to the original storyline of the book, which was a huge success with children. The story is not so bright, but kids want to be taken seriously—they like stuff that is also sometimes darker. It can be for kids, but also for young adults, and parents. It can be a film that the whole family can watch.”
As for the main message of the film, the director offered an explanation of its universal appeal.
“Who could say that they don’t like a message that love can overcome a lot? And not just love between two people, but in general, love is something that can fight a lot of problems.”The film was shot in the Carpatian mountains in Romania, and reviving the folk tale was both fascinating and challenging.
“When you do a period piece, you can make a big mistake if you think you can reconstruct the time, because we have stories, but not pictures. To create the right atmosphere, we experimented with candles and torches and did without electricity.”
28-year-old actor Daniel Bruhl plays one of the leading parts in the movie—Krabat’s faithful friend—and says he, was excited to take on the part.
“I already loved Tonda, my character, when I was a child, so getting to play this part was like a dream come true.”
For him, the film was also a journey into history and imagination:
“I love that period, I am a baroque fan, and I am interested in history. It is a pretty great in this job to be part of time travel sometimes. And there are those rare moments, when during a wide shot, you don’t see the crew, you just see your partners in their dresses, and you really think you are in the 17th century,”says Bruhl.
Overall, Krabat is a fun ride for kids, adults, and the whole family—it offers good entertainment, spectacular cinematography, and a good lesson in history. It premiered at Toronto International Film Festival on September 7.