Where would Salzburg be without “The Sound of Music“? There is hardly any other film that has so motivated tourists throughout the world to put an Austrian city on their travel agenda. But not just Julie Andrews, but also Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz and Nicolas Cage have played against the elegant backgrounds provided by Salzburg.
If “The Sound of Music” had never been filmed would Salzburg be where it is today?
Certainly the most successful, best known, evergreen film shot in Salzburg was made in 1965, telling the story of the Trapp Family Singers, based rather loosely on the memoirs of Maria von Trapp. Even today, it is “The Sound of Music” that determines the image that many Americans have of Austria and it has made “Salzburg” a household name in the English-speaking world. Apparently, there are even people who actually believe that the song “Edelweiss” is the national anthem of Austria.
“Knight and Day” and “Season of the Witch”
Then in 2010 Salzburg served as one of the locations for the film “Knight and Day” starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. In this comedy thriller, Cruise is seen taking a risky leap from the roof of the Hotel Stein into the River Salzach while being chased by a helicopter. “The Season of the Witch” (2011) with Nicholas Cage used the unspoiled natural surroundings of Salzburg to create a mysterious and eerie atmosphere for the film.
In the recent past
In more recent times, Salzburg has played host to crews filming German-language TV movies and series. In 2019, Nicholas Ofczarek and Julia Jentsch were in front of the camera in Salzburg for a crime series made for Sky. “Der Pass” dramatizes in eight episodes the hunt for a serial killer. Most of the scenes for this visually stunning thriller were shot outdoors, in snow, ice, and extreme cold.
Another crime series “Meiberger – Chasing Minds” stars Fritz Karl as the eponymous Thomas Meiberger, a forensic psychiatrist who is called in to help solve murders. Scenes for the Servus-TV series that has been on the screen since 2018 are shot in the greater Salzburg area. State Prosecutor Barbara Simma (Ulrike C. Tscharre) uses his services when the clues and evidence collected by the police are insufficient to identify the malefactor. Salzburg itself and St. Gilgen have provided backdrops
Adrian Goiginger had an international hit with his 2017 film “Die Beste aller Welten” (The Best of All Worlds), which won an award at the Berlin International Film Festival. The film narrative is based on Goiginger’s own childhood in Salzburg and tells of the trials and tribulations of a young boy growing up with a heroin-addict single mother. His documentary-like film “Virginia” also garnered praise. It depicts the life of Virginia Hill, who worked for the Mafia, later fleeing to Europe where she ended up in Salzburg marrying skier Hans Hauser, and also her still unexplained death on the Gaisberg.
Another successful Salzburg-based crime series that has been on the small screen since 2016 is “Die Toten von Salzburg”, a joint production of Satel-Film, ZDF,and ORF, with Florian Teichmeister as “Major Peter Palfinger”, an investigator who is bound to a wheelchair following a paraglider accident.
It all began back in 1911
Salzburg has acted as a film set almost since the invention of moving pictures *). In 1911, the Salzburg area flickered into screen life in a feature entitled “Steamship trip on Lake Zell”. The first film crews began arriving in Salzburg in 1919 to make films about the then unknown but all the more dramatic worlds of the Großglockner, Großvenediger and Kaprun mountains. Leading film studios also took up their abode here. The “Salzburger Kunstfilm A.G.” was the first film company to call Salzburg home. Those who invested in the new industry included film people, bank directors, those involved in the Salzburg Festival and one Heinrich Kiener, the owner of the Stiegl brewery. On his land in the Salzburg suburb of Maxglan he built what was then Austria’s largest film studio extending over 700 square metres, with production hall, film development lab and outdoor shooting areas. Even then the architecture of the city and the surrounding landscape provided “free natural scenery” while in Berlin and Vienna they were forced to create “expensive imaginary worlds made of cardboard”.
Shortly after the end of the Second World War, the film company “Österreichische Film (Atelier) Gesellschaft” (ÖFA for short) was formed and made Salzburg’s first post-war film “Maresi”, starring Maria Schell, which was premiered in the Salzburg Festival Hall in 1948. After two further films, including “Vagabunden” with Paula Wessely and Attila Hörbiger, the ÖFA moved to Kreuzbergpromenade in the Parsch district of Salzburg. A wealth of regionally-set films were made here in the “Hollywood of the Alps” over the next 15 years. In 1962, Vienna-based Otto Dürer took over ÖFA, modernising the studio and building a large film dubbing facility. Several dozen films followed until Dürer was forced to close his studio in 1978 and Salzburg’s long history as a film-making centre came to an end.
(*Source: Christian Strasser “Location Salzburg”, 2013, Verlag Anton Pustet)