Sony Pictures Classics has picked up A Winter’s Journey

Sony Pictures Classics has picked up A Winter’s Journey, an upcoming animated-live action film from British director Alex Helfrecht (The White King).

SPC pre-bought the movie for North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Scandinavia, Australia/New Zealand, Turkey, India, South Africa, Southeast Asia, Japan and Thailand, as well as taking worldwide airline rights.

An adaptation of Winterreise, Franz Schubert’s classical song cycle, A Winter’s Journey is set in Bavaria in 1812 and follows the wanderings of a lovelorn poet who undertakes a life-or-death hike across mountains, ice and snow. The film will start principle photography in Poland in June with a cast including John Malkovich, Jason Isaacs, Polish actor Marcin Czarnik (Son of Saul), Germany’s Martina Gedeck (The Lives of Others) and Olafur Darri Olafsson (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald). Baritone Andrè Schuen and pianist Daniel Heide will perform the soundtrack, which will be released by Deutsche Grammophon.

A Winter’s Journey will blend life action with CGI and painted animation from the team behind the Oscar-nominated Loving Vincent (2017). The world of the film will be the first to be built using PlayStation’s Dreams technology, developed by PlayStation Studios’ multiple-BAFTA-winning games studio Media Molecule.

Jörg Tittel and Philip Munger at London-based Oiffy are producing, together with Sean Bobbitt and Hugh Welchman through their Poland-based BreakThru Films, Reinhard Brundig at German group Pandora Film, Benoit Roland’s Wrong Men North in Belgium, Raphaël Berdugo and Alexis Perrin in France and Richard Mansell. Sebastien Barrillier and Yann Duboux are executive producers.

The Sony deal was negotiated with Paris-based mk2 Films, who are handling international sales.

The film follows Djata (Lorenzo Allchurch), a 12-year-old boy growing up in a dystopian territory called Homeland, under a dictatorship and without access to the rest of the world. His father, Peter (Ross Partridge), tells him of the true nature of Homeland as well as of a treasure guarded by a man named Pickaxe (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson). Peter is later taken away by two government agents, leading to him and Djata’s mother, Hannah (Agyness Deyn), being labelled traitors by the government and the citizenry.

Djata visits his father’s parents who are devoted to the totalitarian government. Once there, his grandfather shows him a gun and orders him to kill a cat. When Djata hesitates, his grandmother presses him to shoot. Later that night his grandfather gives him a medal his father won as a boy for being a great shooter. When Djata returns home his mother gives him a birthday cake but notices Djata is hiding something. When she sees the medal she is angered that he accepted a gift from his grandparents. She yells at him that she won’t let his grandparents brainwash him and sends him to his room.

The next day, while Djata is playing with his friends with the football his father gave him, two bullies known as “the twins”, Romulus and Remus, drive up to them, force candy on them and take Djata’s ball. Later Djata and his mother are standing on a line at the local market, but when they try to buy food they are turned away because they have been blacklisted. Djata is sitting in his hangout when an older boy throws a dead bird with a note through the window. Djata and his friends see the note is an invitation by the bullies to fight to get his ball back. During the fight the next day, Djata manages to get into the bullies’ base, but he is caught by the twins who try to intimidate him into saying that the ball is theirs. He refuses, breaks free and escapes with his football.

When Djata returns home, his mother is trying to find a way to find his father. She reaches out to her father-in-law but he refuses to help. Djata and his mother then visit the local General to ask for help. The General sends Djata out of the room so she can discuss “business” with his mother. Djata wanders through the building and finds a female android who plays chess (linking back to the film’s opening sequence which included shots of Djata and his father playing chess), but he then hears his mother fighting off advances by the General. They demand to leave, and the General lets them go, but only after telling Djata that he will die like his father. When they get back home Djata’s mother tries to find anything and everything she can sell to buy his father’s freedom. Djata stops his mother and tells her everything will be okay.

Djata decides to go with his best friend to find the treasure his father told him about. When they find the cave, it’s not full of treasure but scattered human skeletons and other rubbish. His friend becomes angry and pushes Djata into the pit. Pickaxe finds him and tells him the government put him there to guard their secrets. Before sending him home, Pickaxe asks Djata what he’s willing to sacrifice to find his father; he shows Djata that he has no eyes, and hugs him farewell.

As Djata leaves the forest, his grandfather finds him and in a panic tells him that all he wanted for his father was a better life. He tells Djata he’s been trying all this time to find Djata’s father, but to no avail. He tells Djata that he and his mother need to escape the country. He returns Djata home to his mother but then collapses and dies from a heart attack.

At the funeral, Djata and his mother are refused seats at the front of the meeting hall. In the middle of the eulogy given by Djata’s grandmother, Djata’s father is brought in, in chains. His grandmother appears shaken by his appearance. Djata and his mother run to him and embrace him until a guard breaks it up. Djata’s mother screams at the guard; Djata’s father lunges at the guard and is dragged out. Djata’s mother is knocked down and Djata picks up a stick to chase after the guards dragging his father away. Djata knocks a guard down, but he can’t catch the guards holding his father who is thrown into a truck which drives away. Djata runs after them while his mother tries to follow on her bicycle. Djata runs behind the truck, his mother is riding behind him. The film ends.

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