Auditorium DAMSLab > 12:00


Dossier on the swiss production company, curated by Frédéric Maire


A one-off in the history of Swiss cinema, Praesens-Film is still operating today, one hundred years after its founding. Established on 19 March 1924 by the Swiss (but of Austro-Hungarian origin) civil engineer Lazar Wechsler and the Swiss aviation pioneer Walter Mittelholzer, Praesens-Film first produced several promotional or commissioned films (often directed by Hans Richter or Walter Ruttmann). With the help of foreign directors, the film company dived into more ambitious projects, including a movie about abortion set in Zurich, Frauennot Frauenglück (1929), overseen by Eisenstein, and some German co-productions such as Kuhle Wampe oder: Wem gehort die Welt? (1932), directed by Slatan Dudow with the collaboration of Bertold Brecht.
After 1933, the company focused on national productions, alternating genre films (crime, melodramas, historical films) with moral and patriotic movies, heralding the successful “Heimatfilme” made after the war – in particular Luigi Comencini’s famous Heidi (1951) and its sequel Heidi und Peter by Franz Schnyder (1955), the first Swiss colour feature film.
Praesens-Film’s success is deeply connected to the Schauspielhaus in Zürich, the city’s largest theatre. From 1933 onwards, it opened its doors to actors, directors, set designers and technicians who left Germany and Austria to come and work in Switzerland.