Up-to-date Heidi seen on Swiss cinema screens

Director Markus Imboden at the Zurich première with Cornelia Gröschel (Heidi), Nadine Fano (Clara) and Aaron Arens (Peter) Keystone

With her blue-tinted hair and two goats called Tom and Jerry, Heidi has entered the 21st century with the opening of a new film on the 100th anniversary of death her creator, author Joanna Spyri.

This content was published on March 29, 2001 - 11:33

The latest of over a dozen films based on one of the most successful books of all time opened in Swiss cinemas this week, and although Heidi has been well and truly brought up to date, the new film remains faithful to much of the story's original content.

But all the same, there are stark differences. The 2001 "Heidi" includes shots of high-rise modern apartment buildings in Berlin - rather than 19th century Frankfurt - and other characters in the story have been transported into the 21st century.

For example, Heidi's friend Peter - a goat herder in the original novel - has recently returned from Boston, where he developed a taste for hamburgers, baseball and Internet chat.

Heidi fans will remember that Peter befriends her when she goes to live with her grandfather in the mountains of Canton Graubünden after the death of her parents.

Heidi's idyllic mountain existence comes to a sudden end when her Aunt Deta takes her to Germany to be a companion to Clara, the daughter of a wealthy businessman. The new Clara is portrayed as a Britney Spears-like character.

"This is a modern Heidi, a young person with contemporary ideas and principles, a heroine who is a go-getter but with simple intuitive integrity," says the film's director, Markus Imboden.

Imboden's "Heidi" is a SFr 6.5 million ($4 million) internationally financed co-production, shot on location near Scuol in Graubünden as well as in Berlin. The title role is played by young German actress, Cornelia Gröschel, and other members of the cast are French and Italian.

Of the main characters, only Aaron Arens (Peter) is Swiss.

But the story remains fundamentally a Swiss one, and tourist authorities are hoping the film will give their sector a boost during the run-up to the July 7 anniversary of Spyri's death.

Gieri Spescha of the Graubünden tourist office says some 100,000 Heidi devotees are this year expected to visit the village of Maienfeld, where attractions include the "original Heidi house".

"There is no other Swiss person alive or dead who is as well-known as Heidi," he said. "She's a worldwide brand... who evokes images like courage, nature and the mountain landscape."

Last year about half of the 60,000 visitors to Maienfeld were from Japan, where Heidi is particularly popular. The new film is also due to be screened in Japan and South Korea as well as in several European countries.

And despite the changes from the original version, in one important respect it remains the same. Cinema audiences will be delighted to find that the story still has a happy ending.

swissinfo with agencies

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