With a spirit historically divided between Italy and Austria, the region of Trentino Alto Adige has become popular over the past decade as a filming location. Given its dual cultural identity, it is particularly in demand from productions tailored to both German and Italian speaking markets. Italian viewers are now familiar with the region from the TV series Un passo dal Cielo which is shot in Val Pusteria, in particular in San Candido, the Three Peaks of Lavaredo and Braies Lake where the Commander of the Forest Guard lives in a wooden platform house. Back in the 1930s, the South Tyrolean director, writer and actor, Luis Trenker, made the region’s peaks and valleys the stars of a mountain cinema that owed much to his athleticism and the audacity of the high altitude shoots, opening the way to film’s love affair with these places uniquely able to combine breath-taking settings with an atmosphere that fosters philosophical thought.Print itinerary
Although Sils Maria, location that is key to Olivier Assayas’ story and provides its title, is actually in the Swiss Alps, the film was partially shot in the Val Gardena Dolomites, in particular in the area surrounding Col Raiser and the Juac refuge for the external shots (Selva di Val Gardena) and the Grödnerhof Hotel in Ortisei for the interiors. Wilhelm Melchior Sils Maria’s mountain lodge is actually Casa al Monte (Selva di Val Gardena). In a number of scenes you can see the Sassolungo, the main peak of the Sassolungo mountain range. Some scenes were also shot at the Parkhotel Laurin in Bolzano. The story’s connecting thread which reflects the main character’s state of mind and his personal introspective journey is the evocative meteorological phenomenon known as the “Maloja Snake” which fascinated the director. This snake of fog appears in Engadine, in the Maloja Pass (Switzerland) in the early hours of the morning in the autumn, and winds all the way down towards Sils, Silvaplana and Sankt Moritz.
A teenager meets Dani, a man from Togo who has fled the war in Libya, and together they wait for the First Snowfall (La prima neve), also the title of Andrea Segre’s film, which will magically transform everything: landscapes, shapes and perhaps even people. The setting is that of the unspoiled Mocheni Valley, and more specifically, the city of Pergine Valsugana, a language island where two dialects are still spoken to this day, Italian and Bavarian German. Palù del Fersina, an Italian municipality of just 173 inhabitants in the province of Trento, is home to the church dating back to the 1400s that hosts a number of scenes in the film. The ‘cabin’, the stone lodge where Michele and his friends go, is located in Stelder. Higher up, at 1700 m, is the Pichi Wood, one of the few larch forests in this area of Trentino, where the kids often play. The “faggio del mas dei boci” in Sant’Orsola, also in Mocheni Valley, is 30 metres tall and 200 years old: it is here that Michele seeks refuge alone; he comes here when he catches his mother at home with a man. In the district of Serso, in Pergine, is Lake Restel, a shimmering mirror of water surrounded by lush vegetation where Michele invites Dani to go swimming. Last but not least, the final scene, in which Michele tells Dani how he lost his father, was filmed on the Peak of Sopra Cunella, 2,037 metres above sea level, which affords a breathtaking view over Mocheni Valley and Alta Valsugana.
Val Senales, in Alto Adige, has provided credible settings for an vastly diverse range of stories. The German film The Dark Valley (Das finstere Tal), for example, needed a Western-style environment that this area, which conserves ancient traditions and rituals that date back centuries, was able to provide.
Immediately after this shoot, the area was used for Everest, a Hollywood mega-production inspired by the true story of an expedition that ended in tragedy. Filmed in harsh conditions to give the film a sense of realism, at altitudes of up to 1,800m, with the crew sleeping in shelters without heating and electric blankets to keep themselves warm in temperatures that plummeted a slow as -30°C. The film was shot partly in Nepal, Kathmandu, at the Everest Base Camp, in Italy at Cinecittà Studios, where a swimming pool measuring 7,000m2 filled with basaltic rock was used to recreate the rocks of the Himalayas, and in Val Senales, where a team of around 180 people worked to make the scenes that take place at high altitude as realistic as possible.