Vitus with Swiss Filmmaker Fredi M. Murer

Director Fredi M. Murers film “Vitus,” Switzerlands official 2006 Academy Awards entry for Best Foreign Language Film, was one of the most successful Swiss films of 2006. Sony Picture Classic will release the film June 29, 2007.

“Vitus” introduces a talented young pianist and actor, Teo Gheorghiu. The film also stars Bruno Ganz, Julika Jenkins and Urs Jucker. By the age of 12, Vitus (played by real-life piano prodigy Teo Gheorghiu) is a highly gifted musician whose parents have high hopes for him in a career as a classical pianist. The daily pressure of musical practice, his overprotective but well-meaning mother (Julika Jenkins) and his fathers (Urs Jucker) precarious financial situation lead the boy to seek refuge with his eccentric grandfather (Bruno Ganz).

Writer/director Fredi M. Murer has an acclaimed forty-year body of work, which includes Locarno International Film Festival Golden Leopard winner Hohenfeuer (AlpineFire), Vollmond and Downtown Switzerland.

Veteran actor Bruno Ganz is one of Europes most prolific and internationally distinguished stars. Best known to American audiences for his portrayal of Hitler in The Downfall: Hitler and the End of the Reich, Ganz starred in Jonathan Demmes The Manchurian Candidate and Fernando Girasolis Bread and Tulips.

Director's Statement

In the foreword of The Little Prince, author Antoine de Saint-Exupry wrote: All grown-ups were once children–although few of them remember it.

Vitus' (pronounced Veetus) parents are no exception. “Vitus” is a universal story of the struggle children face growing up, whether to choose the safe and secure future mapped out by parents determined to do whats best, for their child, or answer to the calling they discover inside themselves. As a gifted piano player, and a brilliant mathematician, precocious Vitus finds himself in this same situation, his parents want him to cultivate his talents and become highly successful–just as they have done. But something inside is pulling Vitus in a different direction, and he must choose between obeying his parents and following his dreams. Ultimately however, “Vitus” is a declaration of love to the inspiring and healing power of music.

The Idea

Making a film that paints a realistic portrait of childhood has been on my mind for many years. Many different versions of the script have been drafted since 1999. In this process the fictitious childhood narrative changed over and over again, with one exception, the name of its protagonist: Vitus. In the course of this long writing process, the name Vitus somehow became a metaphor for survival and at the same time a synonym for artist.

Is Vitus a Fairy Tale

The film tells the story of a highly gifted child, but I did not intend the story to be a fairy tale but rather to offer a funny and realistic representation of our time. “Vitus” is first and foremost a declaration of love to the inspiring and healing power of music. Furthermore, it is a declaration of love for life at its purest, liveliest and most individual form: childhood.

Youth in the Fast Lane

Each generation determines the issues of their time. We tried to shed some light on the booming youth culture, an irritating and at the same time stimulating phenomenon of our society. Children and teenagers have become an important economic factor. Nowadays, teenagers rely less on their parents to experience the world than on their globally linked computers. The traditional way of passing down knowledge from one
generation to the next has lost its significance as it is the younger generation who helps their parents and grandparents to understand the fast moving digital and virtual world.

“Vitus” tries to fathom the limits of normality from a different perspective. It focuses on the general trend of dumbing down in our society and the way we deal with people who are considered exceptionally gifted. Vitus has to lead a double life under the cover of ordinariness to be accepted the way he is.

The Computer Game of Life

The digital generation, born in the 1980s has already overtaken the older generation. This development has left its marks on society and work. Todays children have in a way become their parents educators on the electronic age. For the computer non-savvy parents, money and work are traditionally connected, whereas the digital generation of their children sees money and work as mere antagonists in a computer game.

The Characters:

While writing the script, Vitus remained an artificial character like Oscar in theTin Drum by Gnther Grass or Alia in Dune by Frank Herbert or a kind of mix between Mozart and Einstein. To me, feature films are to a certain extent a documentary about the protagonist. With that in mind, we started our search to find the actor who would play Vitus.

The Cast

Teo Gheorghiu

Teo Gheorghiu plays the twelve-year-old Vitus. Not only does he play the piano like a future maestro, but he also developed a talent for acting in a very short period of time. I found Teo at the Purcell School in London, a school for musically gifted children. Despite having a Canadian passport and being of Romanian origin, Teo was born and raised in Switzerland, and can speak perfect Swiss-German.

Fabrizio Borsani

Fabrizio Borsani plays the six-year-old Vitus. Although still in kindergarten,
Fabrizio managed to come to the set well-prepared and developed into a
professional actor as the filming went on. After one scene had been shot he
asked me: Is it okay like this, or would you like me to give you an alternative version

Julika Jenkins

Julika Jenkins, (Vitus mother) is a well-known stage actress in Switzerland. I loved her subtle style of acting, and knew for a long time that Julia would be my first choice to play the role of Vitus mother. And since Julia is half English, I turned her into a full English woman who is married to a Swiss man.

Urs Jucker

Urs Jucker, (Vitus father) also worked on stage in Switzerland. His naturalistic and understated acting style suited the role of the scholarly father, an inventor with practical designs for his sons future.

Bruno Ganz

Bruno Ganz, (Vitus grandfather) was born in Switzerland in 1941. The award-winning Bruno Ganz is one of Europes most prolific and internationally renowned stars. He is best known to American audiences for his portrayal of Hitler in the 2004 The Downfall: Hitler and the End of the Third Reich. Ganz will next be seen in Francis Ford Coppolas Youth without Youth and Theo Angelopoulos The Dust of Time.

Director Fredi Murer explains, Bruno Ganz was my first choice for the role of the eccentric grandfather from the very beginning. I told Bruno about it before I even had a rough script and Bruno instantly agreed. From time to time I gave him the latest versions to read which he graciously commented upon. Through this process, we developed the character of the grandfather together.