German movie industry mourns loss of Eichinger


GERMANY’S FILM world is reeling from the death of influential mogul Bernd Eichinger, producer of the Hitler biopic Downfalland fantasy blockbuster The Neverending Story.

Respected and feared in equal measure, Eichinger suffered a heart attack and died at his Hollywood home late on Tuesday. He was 61.

His loss to Germany’s film industry is incalculable: with a 40-year career under his belt, Eichinger belonged to the handful of Germans who made the successful leap to Hollywood.

After graduating in 1973 from the Munich Film Academy, he was soon producing films by Wim Wenders and Wolfgang Petersen. The first of his many hits came with Christiane F, turning the autobiography of a teenage West Berlin drug addict into the most successful film in postwar German history.

It was a record he would himself break several times over his career thanks to his knack for putting high-quality material in a commercial packaging.

Early successes such as The Name of the Rosebecame his calling card in Hollywood, though he returned home regularly to bring often difficult German material to global audiences.

His greatest successes of recent years include 2004’s Der Untergang (Downfall), which was followed by Perfumeand The Baader Meinhof Complex,about the left-wing terrorism wave that wracked 1970s West Germany.

At the time of his death, he was working on an adaptation of the memoirs of Austrian kidnap victim Natascha Kampusch.

The producer’s death drew a huge wave of sympathy in Germany, with president Christian Wulff recalling how “many important films carried his imprint”.

“As a producer, he never just concentrated on the financing but also the shaping of films,” said Mr Wulff.

With Eichinger, Germany could dream once again of a lost era when Babelsberg outside Berlin was as much a film city as Hollywood. However, Bruno Ganz, whose Hitler performance in Downfallelectrified audiences, warned that, without Eichinger, Germany’s film industry risked slipping into provincial obscurity.

“It will take a long time for cinema to deal with this loss,” said Ganz.

Eichinger is survived by his wife Katja and daughter Nina (29).