Since May this year, the largest international film project so far has been filmed in Latvia – the German historical multi-series art film “Sisi”, which tells about the life of the last Austro-Hungarian Empress Elizabeth or Sisi. The filming of the series has also taken place in Lithuania, you can read about the scenes made in Vilnius in this article.
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“Sisi” will be a story based on real events about the turbulent twists and turns of life in the family of the Duchess of Bavaria, later Empress Elizabeth of Austria, called Sisi. Elizabeth, who was called the most beautiful woman in Europe, fell madly in love with the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I, but soon after the two got married, she realized that life in Vienna was not what she had hoped for. At the heart of this six-hour story will be Sisi’s struggle for her ideals and freedom against the existing power and cruel regime.
Emperor Elizabeth is entrusted to portray the rising Swiss-American star Dominique Devenport, Francis Joseph I will be embodied by German actor Jannik Schümann, and Sisi is directed by Sven Bohse.
Mass views every day and several thousand luxurious costumes
Latvian media had the opportunity to be present during the filming of separate scenes on July 19. They show Sisi arriving in Vienna with her chosen maid Fania and the people welcome her arrival. Hundreds of mass spectators had gathered in the streets of Old Riga
“A large part of the costumes seen in the mass shows come from different European countries – they are rented from special movie costume warehouses,” says Līga Krāsone in a conversation with “Delfi”. She is the head of the costume department of the series, which organizes work here in Latvia. However, more than 100 different dresses have been made here in Latvia. The costume designer of the film is the German Metin Misdik, but in collaboration with our masters, designs have been made for dresses worn by the film’s main female characters. A workshop in the RISEBA H2O house has been specially arranged for the needs of the film.
However, most of the costumes seen in the masses come from Madrid, there are also costumes from Vienna. They come from movie costume warehouses that specialize in costumes for large projects. The uniforms shown in the filming come from Poznan, Poland. Luxurious carriages were also brought from Poland for filming purposes.
“It is a European cinema costume store, which buys costumes after renting various films and then rents them out. It is thought that part of the costumes specially made for the film will be sold to these stores, because the costumes are very high quality,” says Krāsone.
“We were ordered costumes that are not completely historically accurate. The film is more than a fairy tale. So they are a bit stylized, more modern,” explains the head of the costume department.
It took about four hours to crush several hundred participants in the mass shows. “We started at eight in the morning and after 12 everyone was ready,” says Krāsone about the filming day recorded in “Delfi” and other media reports.
But such and even more colorful mass views are created every week. On the day when the media was allowed to visit the filming area, the common people were immortalized. However, luxurious scenes of Hungarian balls with very specific costumes have been filmed in the house of the Riga Latvian Society before. Filming will continue next weekend at Rundāle Castle, where several balls with a fine audience and even more luxurious costumes will be filmed.
However, the costume department is in charge of all sections of 19th century society. A cabbage market has been filmed in Old Riga, which in turn depicts the poorest inhabitants of the Austrian Empire.
Buda Castle, Hofburg, Laksenburg and Posenhofen here in Latvia
For filming purposes, the Latvian National Opera and the Riga Latvian Society House have become more than 600 years older, becoming the home of the Hungarian kings – Buda Castle in Budapest. The interiors of the legendary rococo pearls of Laaksenburg Castle are created in the Grand and Small Guilds, while the exterior is filmed in Cesvaine Castle. The center of the Habsburg dynasty empire – Hofburg Castle features our own Rundāle Castle gardens, corridors, dance halls and reception rooms. In the streets of Old Riga you can find the life of 19th century Vienna: market days, guest houses, horses, carriages and soldiers, hookers and dogs, drinkers and beggars. Straupe Castle and its surroundings interpret life in the Hungarian countryside about 150 years ago. The most extensive and grandiose decorations have been made in the Riga Film Studio – premises of three different castles were built in the area of 2,000 square meters: Hofburg, Laksenburg and Posenhofen.
As previously reported, professionals from Germany, Lithuania and Latvia are cooperating in filming in the Baltics and Bavaria. The international team consists of about 200 people, most of whom are masters from Latvia. At least 150 people work on the filming site every day, the number of mass viewers tends to reach up to 200 people in one day.
Horses and riders from Latvia and abroad regularly take part in the filming. Professional choreographers, surgeons, historians, Hungarian teachers and others who consult and supervise the artists’ ability to speak, amputate, dance or shoot according to the century are involved in unmistakably portraying 19th-century life in all its glory. There are two stunt teams from Latvia and Germany on the square, supervising and participating in battles on the battlefield or in battles on the city streets, as well as making sure that no one is injured during the execution. For the needs of filming, several hundred 19th century costumes have been created by Latvian masters, which reflect life from the farmstead to the palace of the rulers.
The director lacks only the mountains
Director Sven Bohse says about Latvia: “It is a great pleasure to work in such a fantastic climate with such sincere and wide-minded people. Successful cooperation between Latvian and German film professionals has allowed us to do a great deal of work this project would become possible. “
Where else in the world, if not in Latvia, can you find the necessary architecture and landscapes to film everything from a medieval village to Cold War spy games? Latvia fits the portrait of Austro-Hungary even too well; only the mountains are missing. “
“Sisi” ‘s first season premiere is scheduled for the end of this year, the historic multi – series film will be shown on major German, French and Austrian television. In Latvia, the premiere will be celebrated with a closed event at the Splendid Palace cinema.
Tomas Makaras, executive producer of the story series in the Baltic States: “Story House Pictures has been successfully operating in Latvia for the third year in a row and has already filmed six projects here, providing significant added value to our film industry. Our film city has been significantly expanded for Story House Pictures projects. “Cinevilla” is building several new streets and squares there. This investment has created increased interest in Latvia for other international projects as well. If co-financing from Latvia increased, our filming volumes would increase this year and further. “
Andrejs Ēķis, a representative of Cinevilla Films, reminds: “For the first time in Latvia there is a project of such a scale as Sisi. And if the tax policy is correct, this project could bring six million into the Latvian economy, while in the current system it has only brought three. It is important to remember that cinema is not only a culture, but, above all, it is an industry – a profitable industry.Any cinema project allows to earn not only a narrow, industry-related group of people, but also a wide range of service providers – caterers, hotel chains, artisans of various fields , transport providers and this list could go on and on. At national government level, it would be important to understand that cinema can heat up the economy. “
The multi-series film is produced by the German company “Story House Pictures” and the filming in Latvia is organized by “Cinevilla Films”. The project has received financial support from 380,850 euros from the Riga Film Fund and 650,000 euros from the National Cinema Center.