Friday, December 1, 2023

SRF series “Davos 1917” – Director Mack: “It’s a kind of Western in the middle of the Alps”

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Shooting a series is like a marathon – and requires perseverance. When filming “Davos 1917,” director Jan-Eric Mack and his team had to face a variety of different challenges.

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Jan-Eric Mack lives in Zurich and works as a freelance director and author. Mack has already worked as a director for the SRF series “WILDER”, among other things.

SRF: What happened between the further development of the scripts and the first shoots?

Jan-Eric Mack: The director’s most important task was to develop an independent vision based on the scripts. The key decisions had to be made: such as the casting of the main roles and the entire ensemble, but also the definition of the visual world in close consultation with the camera, production design, costumes and make-up. To do this, the right locations had to be found or built across countries.

In which world does “Davos 1917” take place?

At the beginning of the 20th century, the world was in great excitement: Einstein discovered the theory of relativity, Freud developed psychoanalysis, Marie Curie became the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize. The rapidly advancing industrialization inspires and frightens people at the same time: on the one hand, an unshakable belief in progress, and on the other hand, deep insecurity due to social change.

A kind of Western was created in the middle of the Alps.

In combination with the imperialist power politics prevailing in Europe, which leads to various alliances and tensions, a vacuum is created. One spark is enough to start the First World War. In the middle of it all is Switzerland, which claims its neutrality and remains unscathed until the end. But how neutral is political Switzerland really? And which conflicts are fought on supposedly neutral ground?

What makes Davos so interesting for you as a director?

Alpine tourism and the mountain cure attracted an international clientele to the Graubünden mountains and a poor farming village quickly became a sophisticated small town. By declaring our Kurhaus the epicenter of European state politics, we are telling the world under the magnifying glass.

Image of the Davoser Schatzalp


The Hotel “Schatzalp” in Davos. The Art Nouveau building was opened in 1900 as a luxury sanatorium. Today it is a hotel and filming location for the largest SRF series production, “Davos 1917”.


In addition to the sanatorium, the surrounding mountains are our arena: a supposed postcard idyll when you look at it from the terraces. A force of nature if you are exposed to its pitfalls. The result was a kind of Western in the middle of the Alps.

What were the challenges when filming “Davos 1917”?

Filming a series is generally comparable to a marathon: it takes a lot of patience. The historical setting also requires intensive research and precise preparation. We create an entire world down to the smallest detail.

A scene at a New Year's ball


How do you bring the world of Davos in the early 20th century to the screen? Through intensive research and as accurate a reproduction as possible in the series.

SRF/Pascal Mora

What was particularly challenging on “Davos 1917” were the filming conditions on our outdoor scenes, where the cast and crew had to work in the snow and in extreme cold.

What do you want to show with “Davos 1917”?

“Davos 1917” is about people from different social classes who are looking for their place in the world in a time of epochal changes. Although the story takes place over 100 years ago, it is important to us to show the characters as people with whom we can identify: those we know, love or want to avoid from our everyday lives.

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