From Lech into the world
The Lech Zürs region as a film set
No doubt, the wonderful region on Arlberg is best enjoyed up close, no matter if that’s done on skis or with a mug of hot mulled wine. But Lech also looks good on the big screen – a fact that numerous film productions have proven over the years. They show off the area’s many facets in a truly impressive fashion. The world of cinema knows the Arlberg well and frequently comes by to pay a visit. Local stars are regular guests and there even is the occasional visitor from Hollywood. La Loupe looked behind the scenes of four popular films...from romantic to retro!
Bridget Jones – The Edge of Reason (2004)
The scene that was filmed for Bridget Jones in Lech takes a total of three minutes. And for these three minutes the ski resort was turned into a movie set for ten days in 2004. 150 crew and 500 extras worked to make the sequel of Helen Fielding’s best-selling story happen. And the filming location even is the actual place in the movie. Marc Darcy (Colin Firth) takes his girlfriend Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) on a skiing trip in Lech with friends. She fails to mention, however, that she can’t actually ski and that means that plenty of chaos ensues: she interrupts a ski race, falls from a chair lift, and slides straight into a pharmacy, complete with gear and skis.
Even if the film will have you think otherwise, the Texas-born oscar-winning actress Renée Zellweger is actually quite good on skis – contrary to her colleague Colin Firth – and was able to shoot the skiing scenes herself. Colin Firth, on the other hand, got one of Lech’s professional skiers to be his double. Aside from the slopes and the village centre, Lech’s Hotel Arlberg also served as a filming location and it is said that many of the crew enjoyed Lech so much they came back during their own holidays.
Peter takes the Cake (1959)
This comedy film from 1959 with Peter Alexander and Germaine Damar in the lead roles is a classic. What many of you may not remember: the film is set mostly in Zürs, the place where hotel porter Peter Schatz spends his winter sports holiday after his surprising bonanza. He pretends to be an Argentinian cattle mogul and lives it up – and he also meets the pretty telephone operator Renate. Unfortunately she, too, is an impostor and rips him off properly… The film was filmed at Hotel Flexen in Zürs and in Lech’s village centre. Aside from numerous winter images from the Arlberg region the rilm by Géza von Cziffra offers adorable musical numbers and slapstick fun.
White Extasy (1931)
This comedy is among the most well-known films ever shot on Arlberg and it is the first skiing movie with sound. With her klutziness young Leni from Berlin (Leni Riefenstahl) drives skiing instructor Hannes (Hannes Schneider) nuts. But she has her mind set on one thing: with Hannes’ help she wants to participate in a beginners’ ski race – and win it, too.
The film was produced by Arnold Fanck and the landscape shots and skiing scenes from St. Anton, St. Christoph, and Zürs delighted so many cinemagoers it made the Arlberg a place of longing over night. The revolutionary filming technique, impressive jumps, choreographies, and thrilling races did their part in making the film a classic. Today the film’s German name, der Weisse Rausch, is not just a film title, it’s also the name of a brilliant ski race which takes almost ten minutes, making it one of the longest there is. After a mass start the participants race from Valluga down into the valley.
The White Paradise (1929)
This relatively unkown film is the oldest preserved feature film that was shot in Vorarlberg. The silent film by Max Neufeld tells a simple love story with numerous misunderstandings. Almost half of the film is dominated by thrilling ski scenes that are artistically staged. Consequently it is of no great surprise that the film’s storyline is in the background while the main focus lies on snow-covered landscapes and skiing scenes.
The latter were filmed using skiers from the village. The film was shot in Zürs, Lech, and on Flexenstrasse. When the team and actors got back to Vienna the movie magazine “Mein Film” wrote: “Not only the actors but also the director Neufeld, the cameraman Schwertführer and recording manager Hoffermann look fresh, relaxed and suntanned as if they’d just returned from the riviera.”
Hall of Fame
A fascinating retrospective of Arlberg’s film history and a comprehensive exhibition on legendary pioneers of skiing can be found in the Hall of Fame by the summit station of Flexenbahn. And for those who have the stamina the 85-kilometre Run of Fame from St. Anton/ Rend via Zürs to Warth is a great way to explore a wonderful route that was dedicated to the famous skiing pioneers.
More films that were shot at the Arlberg:
• Der große Sprung – The Big Jump (1927)
• Die Hexe vom Arlberg – The Arlberg Witch (1953)
• Der schwarze Blitz – The Black Lightning (1958)
• Zwölf Mädchen und ein Mann – Twelve Girls and One Man (1959)
• Der doppelte Mann – The Double Man (1967)
• Sir Arthur Knatterski (1980)
• Die Pistenteufel – The Devils of the Slopes (1983)
• Fünf-Sterne-Kerle inklusive – Five-star Guys Included (2005)