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Variety: Beta Drops Trailer, Closes Major Sales on Berlinale Series Title ‘M’


Jan 17 2019

Beta Film has rolled out first major territory sales on drama series "M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder" ("M – A City Hunts a Murderer"), which has just been confirmed by the Berlin Festival as one of seven selected series in its TV strand, Berlinale Series.

Viasat has licensed pay TV rights for Russia and CIS countries. TV giant Globo has also closed pay TV rights for Brazil.Canal + has licensed Polish rights, in a further pay TV deal. Scandinavia is in final negotiations.

Beta handles world sales outside Austria and Germany. The drama series is a Superfilm production by John Lueftner and David Schalko for Austrian public network ORF and Germany's TV Now, the new streaming service of the RTL Mediagroup. "M" marks their first fictional original production. Home video Germany is handled by Universum Film.

A potential Berlinale Series talking point, "M – A City Hunts a Murderer" is inspired by Fritz Lang's 1931 movie "M," his first sound film, starring Peter Lorre as a child serial killer memorably whistling "In the Hall of the Mountain King" by Edvard Grieg as he approached his young murder targets.
The eery whistle and images such as the ball of one victim rolling across some grass as the murderer leads her away, helped build Lang's international status. He always considered "M" his favorite film.

Now "M" is a back, in a drama series "M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder" ("M – A City Hunts a Murderer"). Variety has had exclusive access to its international trailer.

Based on Lang's all-time classic, the six-hour limited series is directed by Austrian helmer David Schalko ("Braunschlag," "Altes Geld"), and billed by Beta as parading a who's who of German actors, including Udo Kier ("Downsizing"), Moritz Bleibtreu ("Atomised"), and Lars Eidinger ("Personal Shopper").

The broad story is said to be the same – a child's murder plunges a whole city into panic – though transferred to a snowy Vienna. A mysterious clown whistles a haunting melody. As far-right politicians seize the moment to step up security, in another parallel from the original, the criminal world's business is disrupted so badly by police raids that it hunts the assassin down, subjecting him to kangaroo court trial.

The trailer captures much of this, in a series of increasingly macabre vignettes: A balloon released into the air, a child's red jacket left on a bench in the snow, a young child's uncertainty as she's approached by the assassin; bodies under icy snow, their frozen faces as hard as dolls; children left alone, in their bedrooms or a lonely street at night.

Above all, the trailer captures the desperation of parents who have lost their children in a society caught between sinister forces of order and criminality. In the original movie, that desperation was echoed in the murderer himself who simply cannot control his impulses.
It remains to be seen if Shalko will take a similar tack in the drama series which world premieres at the Berlinale Series.

The original movie's heightened psychological depth marked a milestone for Lang and German film. The series "M – A City Hunts a Murderer" flags the drive for originality to stand out in an ever-more crowed high-end drama market.

Different excerpts were showcased by The Wit at Mipcom, among multiple other series. Of all of them, "M" was the darkest series on show.

As the escalating output of high-end drama series requires ever more industry filters, the selected Berlinale Series titles represents one major focus for executives attending Berlin's Drama Series Days, its TV market-forum which runs Feb- 11-13.

"M" will screen at the Zoo Palast, the Berlinale Series venue, and also be shown at the Blauer Stern cinema in Pankow as part of the Berlinale Goes Kiez program as the Berlinale continues to screen TV series at venues in local Berlin neighborhoods.