Written by on Jan 8, 2014. Posted in Production News

World War II drama The Book Thief films on location in Germany

New World War II feature The Book Thief filmed on location at Studio Babelsberg near Berlin. Based on a novel by Markus Zusak, the film tells the story of a young girl who steals books to find solace from the horrors of Nazi Germany.

The Book Thief is set in a fictional Bavarian town called Molching and the production team spent three months on an extensive scout around Germany searching for somewhere that matched Zusak’s description.

After visiting around 50 different towns, the decision was made to film a key book-burning sequence in the town square of Gorlitz near the Polish border, but also to build a set on a back lot street at Studio Babelsberg. Filming in Gorlitz required discussions with the local authorities, especially when it came to the sensitive issue of Nazi symbols being displayed in public.

“It was not that difficult to convince the authorities there as we have been working closely with them for the last ten years or so,” said Markus Bensch, production executive in charge of locations at Babelsberg: “Parts of Jackie Chan’s Around the World in 80 Days, Kate Winslet’s The Reader and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds were shot there as well.

“Some neighbours thought it would probably not be the best idea to dress their main square with full Nazi insignia over a week in their main tourist season (around Easter) and having 300 extras sing Nazi songs to a book-burning. We managed to convince them that it would be for a good cause and the Nazi elements were taken down during the day.”

Neighbours thought it would probably not be the best idea to dress their main square with full Nazi insignia over a week in their main tourist season.

Markus Bensch, Studio Babelsberg

Building a set at Babelsberg for additional filming became a practical decision. The story encompassed all four seasons of the year and the script called for the town to suffer war damage, all of which were physically easier to achieve in a studio environment. In addition, the restrictions associated with working with children made the production generally less flexible.

The film got incentive support from sources including the German Federal Film Fund and Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg.

“Babelsberg provided the payroll and accounting services, as well as the production entities which allowed The Book Thief to tap into the various German funds and subsidies,” Bensch added.

Other international productions filming at Studio Babelsberg over the past year have included Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel and George Clooney's The Monuments Men.

(Photo: Jules Heath - © 2013 - Twentieth Century Fox)


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