The popular eight-part series “Leonardo” is coming exclusively to Austria from May 16 on CANAL + and CANAL + FIRST. Starproducer explains why historical subjects of this kind never appear in Austria
Canal + in Austria “a ray of hope” for the local film scene.
Leonardo da Vinci, the greatest genius of the 15th century, was not only an Italian painter and sculptor, but also an architect, anatomist, natural philosopher, and engineer – and is still considered one of the most famous musicians of all time. His works turned the current order upside down 500 years ago, his turbulent curiosity navigating between art, science and technology, driven by a deep thirst for knowledge and a determination to unravel the mysteries of the world around him. This is Leonardo da Vinci, as everyone probably knows him from school or university.
Contemporary and Complex: The Personal Conflicts of Genius
However, the eight-part series “Leonardo” (played by Eden Turner), which will arrive in Austria exclusively on the CANAL + app and on the CANAL + FIRST TV channel from May 16, offers a completely different view of his person: the secrets and drama behind the genius – His life, work, personal struggles – all against the background of the Italian Renaissance. Here the genius of da Vinci is not depicted as such, but rather a social outcast of the time: Leonardo – gay, left-handed and vegetarian. And that in the plot of the detective story.
Did Leonardo da Vinci poison his muse?
The plot of the series does not begin at the beginning of Leonardo’s career, but somewhere at the end: Leonardo is accused of poisoning his muse, Caterina da Cremona. Leonardo’s life is undisciplined from this perspective.
As a young genius, Leonardo was obsessed with finding truth in things and drawing – not an easy task for a young man assigned to his mentor to get things done quickly and without fuss. He receives support when he meets Katrina. An unusual relationship arises between the two, through which Caterina hopes to take advantage of Leonardo’s genius.
The series was created by Frank Spotnitz (The X Files, Medici, The Man in the High Castle). Leonardo played Aiden Turner (Poldark, The Hobbit, Being Human), Caterina de Cremona by Matilda de Angelis. At the beginning and end of each episode, you can see the interrogations by “Detective” Stefano Giraldi (Freddie Highmore: The Good Doctor; also one of Leonardo’s executive producers) as kind of the end of the episode. So is it a historical drama and a murder mystery turning into one – the plot is a flashback where Leonardo met and fell in love with his later murder victim? Thus, the series remains intentionally incorrect historically.
Historical movies take too long to shoot
Austrian film producer Wit Haidochka knows how difficult it is to make historical films like “Leonardo,” even if they tend to be fanciful. “When I was a co-producer on Henry IV, we had to supply everything from guns to costumes that were in use at the time – and the main question was, can we afford them? Even with Haneke’s “White Ribbon”, which was shot shortly before World War I, we had to throw our extras in Romania and Poland and take them to filming locations on buses because the German extras were so full that half-starved peasants played‘, says the Austrian director.
Then there are details you didn’t even think of at first – like mowing the wheat, long before the time of the reapers, when you were still hand working with machetes. “Wheat grew much higher than it is today, these were varieties that are difficult to obtain today. So we searched all sorts of institutes all over Europe for ancient types of grain and used them to cultivate a field which was then mowed for cam, so to speak, according to the original.“
Of course, this all costs a lot of money. “This is also the reason why historical films are rarely made in Austria. It is, of course, a glimmer of hope for the domestic film scene when a major international player focused on Europe has now started as CANAL+ in Austria. Regardless, I think Austria is much closer to French film culture than German. The CANAL+ comes from FranceAccording to the producer, it took 12 years to shoot “The Piano Player” because all the German production companies refused. A partner for the project was finally found in France.
“The movie is a fraud in itself.
But you shouldn’t take accuracy too seriously. “You don’t get 100 percent original stuff anyway. In the time of Leonardo, for example, clothing fabrics were woven very differently than they are today. Regardless, the movie is a fraud in itself: we lead viewers into a world that they believe exists. As long as the movie doesn’t get boring, anything goes. Then it does not matter whether the buttons are real or made of plastic, whether wool or synthetic materials were used. If viewers accept the story, the producers will always be right – even if Leonardo da Vinci turns into a criminal case‘, says Heiduschka.
“Leonardo” (Austria Exclusive)
From May 16 exclusively in Austria on CANAL + and from May 16 every Monday at 8:15 pm on the TV channel CANAL + FIRST.