LOVERS GOES INDUSTRY 2022
ORIGINAL TITLE: Orphée
ENGLISH TITLE: Orpheus
DIRECTOR: Stéphane Riethauser
PRODUCTION COMPANY: Luna Films
PRODUCERS: Véronique Vergari
RUNNING TIME: 100'
GENRE: Fiction, Drama
STATUS OF THE PROJECET: Development
Goals at Lovers Goes Industry: Funds, Co-producers, Sales Agents, Festival Screening
MADAME, doc., 94 min., 2019
LES GEANTS A GENEVE, LE TEMPS D’UN RÊVE, doc TV, 53 min., 2017
GARTEN DER STERNE, doc., 61 min., 2016
PRORA, short fiction, 23 min., 2012
LE TEMPS SUSPENDU, doc., 62 min., 2007
The young Leo is hired to dance Orpheus at the opera, and falls in love with the famous choreographer Matthias Stern. An intimate drama celebrating the mysteries of love.
Leo, a flamboyant 17-year-old teenager, dreams of an artistic career. One day, while dancing in the streets of Geneva with his queer friends, he is spot- ted by Matthias Stern, 47, a Berlin choreographer famous for his iconoclastic shows. Enthralled by his natural talent, Matthias hires him to dance Orpheus at the opera.
As the rehearsals begin, the relationship between Leo and his choreogra- pher oscillates between attraction, fascination, modesty and prohibition. One evening, Matthias and Leo find themselves alone on stage. The desire is palpable between them, and Matthias gives in to the advances of the young, cheeky dancer.
Leo falls in love. Matthias is overwhelmed, galvanized by his new muse. But in order not to jeopardize his show as well as his relationship with his boyfriend André, a human rights activist and son of an important patron of the Geneva opera, he distances himself from Leo.
Dismayed, Leo loses his means in rehearsals, arousing the disdain of the professional ballet dancers. But the teenager does not manage to restrain his devouring desire. At the birthday party of the opera’s director, he is provocative and jumps at every opportunity to seduce Matthias and finally manages to embark the choreographer in the whirlwind of love.
Matthias starts lying to his boyfriend André, whose suspicion grows. Meanwhile, a controversy breaks out at the opera: Matthias is accused of exposing his young dancers to pornography, parents of minors have complained and alarmed the press. The director of the opera censors a scene in which teenagers are wearing costumes depicting oversized anuses and penises. And since a rumor about his affair with Leo is spreading like wildfire, he gives Matthias a serious warning. Very upset, the choreographer refuses the censorship and threatens to cancel the show. He vanishes.
Without any news, Leo becomes desperate. Finally, after insisting, he gathers from the assistant that the choreographer has returned to Berlin for a few days. Madly in love, Leo decides to join him.
The young man manages to find Matthias in his Berlin apartment. There, in secret, they live a honeymoon. It is immensely joyful, festive, sexual, tender, intimate, voracious, happy. After three magic days and nights they return to Geneva, facing their responsibilities.
The director of the opera is furious, he had trouble containing a shitstorm about the pornography affair on social media, his reputation is at stake. Leo’s parents alarmed the police after their son disappeared for three days. Matthias denies any implication and proposes to modify the sexually explicit scene in the show. The director accepts the deal.
Confronted about his unjustified absence, Leo lies to his parents. On the other side, André confronts Matthias, who finally confesses his feelings for Leo. André is very upset and warns his boyfriend: if he glances at this boy again, he risks losing everything.
Struggling with his inner demons, Matthias tries to come to his senses. He breaks up with Leo. The boy is heartbroken. He does not want to do the show anymore. Distraught, Matthias begs him to come back to the rehearsals. And back into his life. Leo ends up giving in.
The evening of the premiere, the who’s who of Geneva is at the opera. On stage, carried by the music of Gluck and its electro variations, Leo offers a stunning, audacious performance. It is a triumph! It is a scandal! And after the dancers take their bows, electrified by their desire, Leo and Matthias kiss on stage, displaying their love in front of everyone, provoking a shockwave across the audience.
“There is no love; there are only proofs of love.” These words by Pierre Reverdy – pinned by Cocteau – will guide me to direct my first fiction feature.
A key figure in mythology, Orpheus is a poet, a tragic hero who symbolizes unconditional love. He has inspired the arts for centuries. Thanks to his singing talents, he seduces the monsters of the Underworld and thus recovers his beloved Eurydice, on one condition: that he does not look at her until he has returned to the light. But devoured by his passion, he turns back and looks at Eurydice, disobeying those who rule the Kingdom of the Dead, and loses her forever. Inconsolable, he devotes himself to the love of boys and refuses the burning advances of the Maenads. They will tear him to pieces for that, but at last he will join Eurydice in heaven.
Leo and Matthias, the two protagonists of the film, each embody Orpheus’ impulse to love. The young Leo discovers true love. At odds with his family, he also finds in Matthias a mentor who allows him to express himself through dance and to become an artist. Matthias, the choreographer, will experience a radiant love, of an intensity he’s never felt before. Both of them will burn their wings while looking for the ultimate proof of love. To finally rise from the ashes, regenerated by art, by the other, by love.
I want to capture the emotions of the characters as closely as possible, to show their intimacy, the backstage of their soul, in order to reflect the truth of their feelings. To expose the moments when the armor falls off, when the blood hits the temples, when the skin twitches and reveals our vulnerability. I want to make a film that exudes sensuality, that shows the vertigo of desire. To tell simply and subtly what it means to be in love. I want to offer new mirrors, new references to the audience, bring to light our internal conflicts and chase away the old demons of shame and guilt, in resonance with the contradictions of the world. In short: to make people dream.
Music and dance are like love: they travel beyond words, they deeply touch us, they remind us of the power of the unconscious, of the animality that makes us who we are. Love challenges our certainties, invites the unexpected, breaks taboos and creates new spaces. Music and dance play a key role in my film. I would like to work with a composer to create an original soundtrack, with some baroque opera rework electro music, as well as an established choreographer to stage the dance scenes.
The emotional journey of Leo and Matthias will be magnified by arias sung by Lucia Lucas, the first transgender baritone, and Emilie Pictet, mezzo-soprano, who lend their sublime voices to Orpheus and Eurydice in the show staged at the opera. A show I imagine as a bold rereading of the Greek myth, a bewitching non-binary world, a mise en abîme of the story experienced by the protagonists, wrapped in references drawing from opera, cinema, music, painting, literature and pop culture.
A contemporary, intimate drama with epic accents, Orpheus also offers a critical look at the norms and values that shape us. A film that goes beyond labels, barriers and genres. A film that reminds us that the freedom to love is the most precious thing we have. A film as a proof of love.
Stéphane Riethauser. Born in Geneva. Law degree from the University of Geneva. Worked as a LGBTQ activist, photographer, editor and free lance journalist. Author of “A visage découvert”, a photography book about coming out. TV director at Swiss Radio Television RTS (2003-2008). In 2007 he launches Lambda Prod and starts working as an independent filmmaker. His latest film "Madame" was selected at more than 50 festivals, won 12 awards, and was nominated at the 2020 Swiss Film Awards for Best Documentary and released in theaters internationally.
Véronique Vergari was born in Geneva. She graduated in Communication and Entertainment Sciences at the University of Languages and Communication (IULM) in Milan, Italy. She completed her academic studies with a thesis in sociology of communication on "interactive television and its future".
She began her career in production, working for various entities in Switzerland, Italy, Ireland, Spain and India. Her mandates led her to advertising, fashion, theater, and then the small and big screen. For a few years she was an actress, first in the theater, creating her own company, then in television and finally in cinema. At the same time, she devotes herself to a career as an artist photographer.
In 2016, she made her return to film production in Switzerland. Since then, she has produced La Mif (2021), by Fred Baillif, which won awards in prestigious festivals. She won the Industry Village Award at Les Arcs 2021 with the project Orphée by Stéphane Riethauser and will be present at the next Cannes Film Festival.
Luna Films is an independent production company based in Geneva. The team develops fiction and documentary stories in Switzerland and internation- ally around issues of identity, social themes, the environment.