Bernhard Sinkel
Alf Brustellin, Bernhard Sinkel

The script written by Alf Brustellin and Bernhard Sinkel is a free adaptation of a novella by the German romantic Joseph von Eichendorff "From the Life of a Good-for-nothing", which I remembered from my German literature book.

Thomas Mann once wrote about "Good-for-nothing": "But the novel is nothing less than well mannered, lacking any serious depth, any psychological ambition, any deliberate social criticism, and any intellectual discipline. It's nothing but dream, music, relaxation, the sounds of the postal horn, wanderlust, nostalgia, homesickness, fireworks in a night park, senseless bliss, so that your ears are buzzing from poetic charm and confusion."

This might also describe the movie if we add a dose of arbitrariness and lots of anarchy. On Bernhard's website there is a lot of material, data and notes, but I also found a related interview (in German). The film was shot in Prague, in and near the Veltrusy mansion, and around Rome, to which, in the 19th century, all romantic roads led. The bulk of my work was of course the costumes, hair and make-up as I had many good partners: Barbara Mathée at the costume department and for the sets Karel Vacek in Prague and Franco Chianese in Rome. Replaying the titles of the film I felt a strange loneliness. Many friends and partners on the film including the co-screenwriter Alf Brustellin, the cinematographer Dietrich Lohman, the composer Hans Werner Henze and the co-producer Bernd Eichinger are gone. The latter just recently. Last year when I visited the new building of the Munich Film School I stopped awhile to admire the impressive architecture on the square that bears his name.



The sketches for the costumes were done long before casting was completed. Bernd imagined his protagonist with Mediterranean characteristics. He even did a screen test with a dark Bavarian, one of those whom Prussians claim was descended from Attila's Huns who, because of the gout, did not manage to cross the Alps... There are cases of native racism. Finally he found Jacques, an Austrian who had just finished the famous Falkenberg School in Munich. In order not to embarrass him I re-drew the Taugenichts character to make it look like him. The Bavarian Hun remained in some of the sketches. For the role of the porter, Bernd would have ideally wanted a red-headed Peter Ustinov, but he ended up with bald Wolfgang Reichmann. Him I left unchanged in the drawings with red hair and mutton-chop sideburns. Since there was no budget for stars, not even for local ones, too often we had to search closer to home to find good actors for small parts. So the Countess was played by Eva-Maria Meineke, the wife of a collaborating producer, Flora was Μareike Carriere, the girlfriend of my partner von Vietinghoff, and the drunken German poet in the Villa Lante was played by Mario Adorf, who actually lived permanently in Rome.