Following the international acclaim of “Babylon Berlin,” XFilme Creative Pool, in partnership with Beta Film, debuted excerpts from its newest drama series, “House of Promises,” scoring on Sunday MipDrama’s prestigious Buyers’ Coup de Couer Award.
The 12-part drama, directed by the reputed Sherry Hormann (“Desert Flower”) and Umut Dag (“Vienna Blood”) for bullishly growing SVOD service RTL Plus, centers on its female protagonists, giving breath to their histories and the tide-shift taking place in the ‘20s that allowed them to chase their passions and ambitions fiercely.
“House of Promises” is the female perspective of the Golden 20s. The center of our series isn’t only a love story, it’s about love on all levels. Romantic love, love within a family. It’s about the failure of love, about friendship and love between women,” Hormann notes.
“Our vision is to dive into daily life at this time. Telling facts that are hard to imagine today: Women didn’t have the right to rent an apartment unless they were married. Illegality turned into normality. They shared a small space by sleeping in day and night shifts.
Unfolding their attitudes of survival by opposing being a victim. Live as well as you can, embrace the moment,” she goes on.
Following key player Vicky (newcomer Naemi Feitisch) as she sets off from her humble countryside home and begins the arduous journey towards a new life in Berlin, the show depicts the opulence and underground of the city. At its magnetic core is the sprawling Jonass department store. Partially filmed in a warehouse with significant cinematic relevance, the location was previously Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel.
“Interestingly enough, our production designer was part of the crew of ‘Grand Budapest Hotel,’” said Hormann. “We saw this location and thought, ‘this is filled-up with dreams,’ plus it has the Wes Anderson vibes. We were lucky enough to get in touch with a Belgian designer called Dries Van Noten. We used original lamps from the ‘20s, which were hard to find in antique stores. This is how we created our kind of world, to fill it up with the individual stories attached to that time, the Golden 20s. But with all their scars from the past.”
Exquisitely crafted into a stunning era-specific episodic, producer Uwe Urbas commented on the enormous task of ensuring the nostalgic aesthetic in a bustling and modern city.
“Our idea was to shoot as many scenes as possible in real locations. To show the bars and the streets of the Scheunenviertel, which is the district around the Soho House. The biggest challenge was to remove all the modernity. That was not easy because there are street signs everywhere, all the doors and windows are modernized and it was nearly impossible to shoot, to block the whole street in Berlin.”
He goes on: ”When we first started the project, Stefan Arndt, one of the producers of the show and producer of ‘Babylon Berlin,’ asked me where he could find such a warehouse, it’s impossible. ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ came to my mind, and when we went to Görlitz and we saw this building we were completely shocked because of the size and the poor condition. The building stood empty for years. It was really, really in a bad condition but when we went, there was a magical spirit. When you look up to the glass dome it’s really magic. It’s like new, it’s really new. The whole building is destroyed but this one part is new. And we all knew that we had to shoot it there, because that was magic. Nobody could build this in a studio lot.”
Alongside Vicky’s captivating journey, the series introduces Arthur Grünberg, played by Alexander Scheer (“Blood Red Sky”). A celebrated war veteran, whose empathy shows up in droves, he tries his best to bolster inclusion by completing Jonass, where even the poorest in the community could afford tiny luxuries.
Remarking on whether or not there’s room for this type of modern-day altruism, Hormann stated, “Sadly enough, while we speak, war is going on, just a thousand kilometers from Berlin. I’m totally convinced that it will change society profoundly and that our series is sort of a hug for what we’ve been through in the past three years. Because it’s sort of comforting to know that whatever happens there’s a way, sadly enough, to begin again.”
At its core, “House of Promises” is an enthralling history of characters who seem to grow up alongside the facade, relaying their intoxicating love stories as the narrative progresses. The building is given its very own soul, as if a central character and co-star to the protagonists. A fascinating way to embody a structure, as if its walls could talk and relay all of the histories they’d witnessed. Built up from pure ruin to wind up as a beacon of hope, affection, dignity, and worth.
The cast is rounded out by Ludwig Simon (“Beat”) and Nina Kunzendorf (“Furia”) and marks the continuation of a fruitful relationship between Beta Film, handling international distribution, and XFilme Creative Pool.
Beta Managing Director Dirk Schürhoff spoke fondly of the alliance. “The start was so amazing. If you start a collaboration on a show like ‘Babylon Berlin,’ it is really a perfect start, a beautiful first story of success for everybody involved. Not only for us but also public broadcaster ARD and Sky and channels all over the world.”
“I still have a feeling the future looks bright. Why bright? Because we share the same passion for storytelling. We really love stories, local stories as well, and I think ‘House of Promises’ is a very local story with universal emotions. The most important thing is emotions that can travel.”