New release: debut novel at 84: filmmaker Hark Bohm talks about “Amrum”

In a new film and his first novel, Hark Bohm ("North Sea is Murder Lake") dedicates himself to his personal place of longing.

New release: debut novel at 84: filmmaker Hark Bohm talks about “Amrum”

In a new film and his first novel, Hark Bohm ("North Sea is Murder Lake") dedicates himself to his personal place of longing. With “Amrum” he is publishing a book that tells of his connection to the North Frisian island. A new film based on his memories also has the same title. For this, Bohm once again collaborated with his artistic foster son Fatih Akin (50, "From Nothing"). Bohm wrote the script with Akin from Hamburg, who is there as director.

The screen drama, starring Hollywood star Diane Kruger ("Out of Nothing"), Laura Tonke, Lisa Hagmeister and newcomer Jasper Billerbeck, will be filmed on Amrum for almost 50 days in the summer. Filming has just started in Hamburg. The film is scheduled to be released in cinemas in autumn 2025.

“Amrum is the spot on earth that tells me I’m at home,” says Bohm, who had to leave the North Sea island at the age of 12. And has long lived in Hamburg, where he inherited a house in the dignified Elbe suburbs.

Bohm, who turns 85 on May 18, wrote his debut fiction novel together with the writer Philipp Winkler (born 1986, "Hool"). The 84-year-old says in the Ullstein Verlag press brochure: "Everything I loved was here, on the island. These childhood years on Amrum were the most important, and that's probably why I always considered Amrum my home. I still do."

Works are based on childhood memories

Both works by the director, actor, author, producer, professor emeritus and lawyer Bohm are based on his childhood memories - but each artistically transformed. The book focuses on a boy with the Frisian name Nanning, who feels responsible for his pregnant mother and his little siblings in the last years of the Second World War. The father is serving somewhere in the Wehrmacht and the family doesn't know whether he is still alive. Both parents were ardent Nazis - like many, but not all, on the island. Nanning is somehow aware of the drastic current events, but what is more important and obvious to the adolescent is his adventurous everyday life on the island.

Between oystercatchers and plovers, dunes, sandbanks and the Wadden Sea, buffeted by the strong North Sea wind, the boy's little world unfolds on the pages of the novel. There are no young or middle-aged men on the island and food is scarce. But Nanning and his best friend Hermann make it a game and have fun wresting food from the barren nature. They hunt rabbits, kick clods and trade their prey for essentials. And fight against unfavorable peers. Until the news of Hitler's death reaches the island community and finally shakes the certainty of the old order. The father returns, but is soon arrested by the English. And Nanning has to decide which path he wants to take in the future.

Bohm and Winkler describe the coming-of-age events with island flair and contemporary color with noticeable, brittle love in emphatically simple sentences. This basically creates little sketches. Anyone who reads them will easily see them as film sequences - so you can be particularly excited about Akin's cinematic work.

Bohm insists on real stories with real characters

As in all of his scripts and films, the novelist Bohm insists on a real story with real characters, despite zeitgeist tendencies. “They called me “de Snacker” back in Amrum,” Bohm recalled in an interview with the German Press Agency in 2019, given his passion for storytelling. During the war, his mother moved with him back to her home island to seek protection from the bombs. She also gave birth to his three siblings there.

“It was the opposite world to where we are right now,” Bohm described the conditions to the dpa. “In a certain sense, everyone there was the same. We had sheep, goats and chickens. What you kept in the stable and what you What was grown in the garden was also what people ate. In the famine winter of 1947, we children were mostly outside and had to work on the beach, picking blueberries, raiding seagulls' and lapwings' nests, and setting up rabbit traps. There was also cosmopolitanism and the desire to make something of oneself, for example becoming a captain, in Amrum.

The author not only has the island world he loves in his mind, but also quite literally before his eyes in his casually stylishly furnished Hamburg home. Oil portraits of his ancestors from an Amrum farming and captain dynasty hang on the walls of the house that he shares with his second wife Natalia Bowakow. Which Bohm likes to lovingly comment on for visitors. “Family is the central value for us,” he said. So it too is probably a piece of home for the artist.

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