Curated by Frédéric Maire

A one-off in the history of Swiss cinema, Praesens-Film – which produced all eighteen feature films shot by Leopold Lindtberg – 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. Among them was Lindtberg from Vienna. Born in 1902, the theatre director and actor was hired by Wechsler in 1935 and made his debut behind the camera with the comedy Jä-Soo.
His next film, Füsilier Wipf (1938), about mobilization in World War I was a national success and was the first time the director partnered with screenwriter Richard Schweizer. Together they also made the outstanding crime film Wachtmeister Studer (1939), starring Heinrich Gretler and based on the novels by Friedrich Glauser.
With the onset of World War II, Lindtberg created increasingly social and political films. In particular, he directed two humanistic films that opened up the international market for Praesens-Film: Marie-Louise (1944), about French children evacuated to Switzerland during the war, which won the Oscar for best screenplay; Die Letzte Chance (1945), an award-winner at Cannes and the Golden Globes, powerfully evoked the fate of Jewish refugees. After the war, Lindtberg reconstructed his Vienna occupied by the allies in Die Vier im Jeep (1951) and won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.
Lindtberg’s last film was Unser Dorf (The Village, 1953), which also won an award in Berlin and was presented at Cannes. Afterwards, Lindtberg chose to work in television and theatre, no longer finding a place for himself in the world of cinema of his adopted country.

Frédéric Maire