The Adlon - a Family Saga | ZDF/2013
A good story needs a myth - and emotions
How do you work on something that tells a century of German History? How do you write a script about the Hotel Adlon?
When Oliver Berben came to me with the idea to tell the story of the Hotel Adlon, I started to familiarise myself with the 20th century (an extensive task). I set historical focus areas in relation to the events and anecdotes that are known from the Adlon. Thus creating "narrative nests" where history and Hotelstories meet. But this alone would not suffice for a three part Mini Series. A film needs emotions. But where to find them? I invented the fictive family’s Schadt and Loewe and put them in an immediate relation to the Hotel and the family Adlon. Through this constellation a whole new area of tension evolved not only within the different levels of the story, but it also gave the viewer a look from the outside. I wanted to tell the story of ninety years of german history mainly from the perspective of women and how they changed during these historical epochs.
One of the challenges was that the biography of the main character Sonya Schadt had to be intertwined with the Adlon. I had to make sure that the main Plot evolved around the Hotel and the doors of the hotel keep closing behind Sonya. "We would have never dreamt that we would one day be prisoners of the Adlon" Hedda Adlon says at one point. This was my dramaturgic and narrative strategy, to centre the blows of fate of the characters around the hotel, so that they are connected to it through out the film.
With Uli Edel a director joined who needs emotions as if it was air to breath. At this point there were already five very different versions of the script.
In month of work we conquered sequence after sequence of the story and fought for a mutual view on it - creating the world of the Schadts and the Adlons. Together with the dramatic advisor and director Sarah Kirkegaard we fine-tuned the Production version with regard to the essence of the story line. Three books, nearly 400 scenes that we kept emailing back and forth as well as long talks and discussions, until we reached a consent.
I love remembering the times I was at the shooting location, witnessing the creation of the scenes next to Uli Edel. Even in those moments we kept making changes to the script, as no word or reaction should be accidental. That is how we got every last bit out of the myth, not only historically but also biographical, narrational and cinematic.
Rodica Doehnert, 2012 november