Brno, Czechoslovakia, 1930s. The Affair. The Landauers, a recently married couple, commission German architect Rainer von Abt (Karel Roden) to build a unique house – a minimalist modern masterpiece made of steel and concrete – with a transparent glass room as its center. It is not only beautiful and extraordinary, the room also works as a metaphor for transparency, modernity and hopes of the newborn republic.
At first, Viktor (Claes Bang) and Liesel (Hanna Alström) Landauer are filled with optimism and happiness. But as life intervenes, their new home also brings out their most passionate desires and darkest secrets. As Viktor searches for a warmer, less challenging comfort in the arms of another woman, and Liesel turns to her wild, mischievous friend Hana (Carice van Houten) for excitement, the marriage begins to show signs of strain. The radiant honesty and idealism of 1930s quickly evaporate beneath the storm clouds of World War II. As Nazi troops enter the country, the family must leave their old life behind and attempt to escape to America before Viktor’s Jewish roots draw Nazi attention, and before the family itself dissolves.
Adapted from British author Simon Mawer’s acclaimed novel inspired by the dramatic events of the 20th century and the birth of an iconic architectural gem, the Tugendhat Villa in Brno, this extensive project has taken almost ten years from the initial idea to completion.
The film tells the story of a unique relationship between two women that went beyond friendship. Liesel and Viktor has a family, children and a sense of responsibility for others, while Hana is untrammelled, a loose cannon almost. The paths of their lives are full of twists and turns, dramatic historic events, opportunities and obstacles that forever changes the course of their lives.
The Koalition spoke to Claes Bang and Hanna Alström about bringing the international bestseller to life, the secrets these characters keep and the lives they long to have.
In The Affair, the story of the villa is essentially international. During the almost one hundred years of its existence, it was home to people of various origins who spoke several different languages. It was clear the casting had to correspond to that. Hanna Alström as Liesel and Claes Bang as Viktor were essential to telling a story about how the buildings we live in influence our feelings, thoughts and actions and thus also our relationships.
While Hanna believes the house “represents dreams for Liesel, for Lisel it’s dreaming of this prefect life,” for Claes the house represents something more. “They decide to go see this architect and tell him to tell exactly to build them the house they are dreaming of, the house really becomes a representation of themselves. They could have built any house, they could have built a small cottage, or it could have been very dark, or it could have been anything. It’s really an expression especially of Liesel’s wishes ans therefore it becomes an extension of what their dream are and it becomes an extension of their personality. As an actor it’s quite helpful that all of a sudden there’s a manifestation of something that’s right there that is due because it tells something else about you.”
“It’s always quite interesting that these two people who have all these secrets and have all these weird relationships that should stayed hidden, they choose to build a house you can see straight through. What they should have done is build a really darken place with very separate rooms you couldn’t look into so they could keep their secret lives with no one watching.
The learn more about The Affair, check out our full interview in the video above.
The Affair will release on VOD on March 5th.