Brand New Exclusive Interview With Michael Steiner Director Of Sennentuntschi: Curse Of The Alps
By James Whittington, Monday 29th August 2011

Michael SteinerWinner of the most interesting title of the whole of FrightFest Michael Steiner's Sennentuntschi: Curse Of The Alps is a winning combination of traditional themed horror and contemporary shocks. Michael took time out to give us this exclusive interview.

HC: Have you always been a fan of the horror genre?

MS: Yes, I grew up with it, especially with the Italian horror-movies of the 80s. The success of VHS brought all these movies to Switzerland, because we have a large number of Italian immigrants here. So our Italian schoolmates showed us their "hard stuff" and we were grouping in front of the TV - glued to it out of fear. Because the VHS-format was so new, there were hardly any restrictions regarding violence and explicit content. Later on the video stores held these movies under the counter and after some nice words and coins on top, the hot stuff found its way to the addicted customer...

HC: Do you have a favourite director?

MS: Many. Staying with the Italians I would name Sergio Leone, George A. Romero, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci etc.

HC: Where did the idea for Sennentuntschi: Curse Of The Alps come from? Is it really a legend?

MS: Yes. It is a Swiss myth about three shepherds who - out of loneliness in the mountains - build a female doll out of a broom and other tools which they find in their alpine hut. The doll becomes alive, the three men start to abuse her - first as a maid, later on as mistress. When Fall comes, the men want to leave the alp and leave their creation up there alone, but the woman, who now turns out to be a demon, does not let them go. She kills them in revenge, skins them and hangs the skins on the roof of the hut. As a warning. We adapted this story into the 70s and rearranged the ingredients of the myth to come up with an own, post-modern interpretation of the tale.

HC: Did the script take long to write?

MS: Yes, due to the different time lines in the movie we did over 14 versions and that took us almost 2 years.

HC: How did you go about casting the movie?

MS: Every casting is different. Sennentuntschi was set up as a co-production between France, Austria and Switzerland, so we casted within three nations. For the Swiss actors I was already quite sure about while writing the screenplay.

HC: Was it a difficult shoot as it seems you used some remote locations?

MS: The altitude and the weather were the hardest challenges. We shot on 2100 Meters above sea level, so the air is thinner and the crew therefore slower. At least for the first few days. While shooting we were confronted with snowfall, cold temperatures and stones that fell down during bad weather. Because the set is quite noisy we had to put two people above the set who were listening if big stones are coming. When it is foggy, you may see max. 10 - 20 meters, so you can only hear the sound of the stones, but you don't know where they are landing. Every time our guys above us heard an unusual sound, they were shouting down and the crew had to run for shelter.

HC: There are some pretty grim scenes in the movie, what was the atmosphere like on set?

MS: Focussed and much disciplined, I would say. When you do a movie like this, actors are usually very aware of the impact. I always work with my coaches from London (Giles Foreman and Liana Norton), so we were able to approach the scenes gently and thought-through.

HC: The score reminded me of the classic Hammer films from the 50s and 60s, was that deliberate?

MS: No, but thank you for the compliment. I told the composer, Adrian Frutiger, that I want to have a score which has the feeling of wind, arranged with additional typical Swiss instruments and suitable also for the impression of the 70s, in which time the movie plays. Adrian went through all the scores of genre films that time and the result might therefore remind the interviewer of the Hammer films.

HC: Are you nervous about the film playing at FrightFest?

MS: Yes, very much indeed. The English audience does not know the myth, nor do you have high mountains with its sometimes very "special" inhabitants. Luckily the English invented tourism, skiing and bobsledding here in Switzerland, so I hope that this British fascination for our mountains, landscapes and culture has not faded out in the last 100 years...

HC: Where do you stand on censorship?

MS: I don't think about censorship when I shot a movie and I get angry about globalized rules regarding morality when it comes to art.

HC: So what’s next for you?

MS: Probably a comedy. Or a beer in a Pub.

HC: Michael Steiner, thank you very much.

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