Bernd Eichinger’s sudden death on January 24, 2011, shocked the film world. The energetic and highly creative German film producer, director and writer died in Los Angeles of a heart attack at the age of 61. He had turned Germany’s ailing film scene into a successful film industry and it will be hard to fill the void he has left. He had greatly influenced not only Germany but also international
With his keen instinct for good movie material he was always looking for the unusual story. Among the English-language block-busters are The Never Ending Story (1984), which combined animated creatures with live actors, followed by the successful 14th century story The Name of the Rose (1986) and Tom Tykwer’s Perfume (2006). Bernd Eichinger was known as a visionary and didn’t stop taking a risk when producing the spoof of a Western with German comedian Micheal Herbig Der Schuh des Manitu (Manitoes’s Shoe) which paid off by becoming a triumph and one of Germany’s biggest films. With Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in Africa, 2001), directed by Caroline Link, he won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
Bernd Eichinger was also a talented screen writer and wrote the script for Downfall (2004) dealing with Hitler’s last days and The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008) about the Red Army Faction terrorist group which won him acclaim and commercial success. He even had been involved in opera and directed Wagner’s “Parcifal” in 2005. These are just a few examples of his enormous talent and diversity. According to the newspaper Die Welt, six out of the top ten films produced in Germany since 1980 came from Eichinger’s company.
Born on April 11, 1949, in Neuburg/Donau, he studied film direction in Munich but soon formed his own company, Solaris Film, in Berlin. His first production was Wim Wender’s Falsche Bewegung (Wrong Movement, 1975) with 14-year-old Nastassja Kinski’s first screen appearance. Already in 1979 he invested in Constantin Film which became the most influential film producer and distributor in Germany, putting German film back on the map.
Last year the German Film Academy honoured Eichinger with a long-overdue lifetime achievement award, which he received with a standing ovation from the audience.
“How do we start to fill the gap so suddenly torn open?” director Tom Tykwer asked at Eichinger’s memorial service. “No one who met him, or saw his films, could be left cold.”
“With Bernd Eichinger we have lost a visionary producer and passionate cineaste. With his high level of creativity and energy he continually pushed the limits of the doable – and so repeatedly taught the film industry pragmatism and brought success. We feel great sorrow at his sudden death,” says Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick.