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Frank Schätzing: “All in all, it could have been something great”

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Frank Schätzing
Image: IMAGO/Reuters
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It was “a vision that must have lasted barely ten seconds” that inspired the Cologne writer Frank Schätzing to write the bestseller “Der Schwarm”.

It must have been 1996 or 1997, says the 65-year-old in a ZDF documentary, when at 3 a.m. half awake, half dreaming, he “floated over the ocean and saw millions of fish ganging up”. In the end, the author (“The Tyranny of the Butterfly”) woke up with the idea of ​​writing a book about it.

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He noted the following words on a piece of paper: “Life in the seas threatens humanity. Book title: The Swarm”. The paper is still in his possession today, when the large-scale production “Der Schwarm” celebrates its TV premiere on ORF eins.

Friction between alpha animals

The thriller series, which was led by ZDF, comprises eight parts, was produced by seven TV stations, including ORF, and can be seen from today to Wednesday at 8:15 p.m. The budget is said to be 40 million euros, which makes the series more expensive than “Babylon Berlin”. The episodes will be broadcast from Monday to Wednesday, starting at 8:15 p.m.

Schätzing remembers that ZDF had an “open barn door” when they asked about a film adaptation of his novel. He is not a classic author in that sense, “because I always copy my own films that run in my own inner cinema”.

For the adaptation of his book, which he researched for five years and wrote for two years, the author collaborated with US producer Frank Doelger, executive producer of “Game of Thrones” (2011-2019). Of course there was friction between two such alpha animals. You fell out. What Schätzing likes about the series is, in addition to the actors, including Oliver Masucci (“He’s back”), Barbara Sukowa (“Hannah Arendt”) and Franziska Weisz (“Days that didn’t exist”), the look, the Film music, the sound design and the special effects, some of which are “on an international level”. “In the sum of all parts, it could have been something great, but unfortunately it isn’t in my opinion.” The biggest problem is that the zeitgeist of the template from 2004 stuck too much.

One could have done more than one adventure trip if the novel had been “adapted for the young, enormously politicized generation”, which did not exist at the time. If people like the end result, that’s good, “because my opinion doesn’t matter”. Even then, the film would no longer be his baby if it had been a complete success “because it’s not my book.”

The novel “The Swarm” (2004) sold more than ten million copies by 2010 and was translated into 27 languages. It is about a maritime swarm intelligence that wants to ban mankind from the seas. An expedition is to prevent a catastrophe.
Twice it was said that Hollywood wanted to film the novel. In 2006, Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”) was named as director, then US star Uma Thurman (“Kill Bill”) secured the rights. Both came to nothing.

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