Released films

Casanova Variations

Casanova Variations

A film by Michael Sturminger

Starring John Malkovich, Veronica Ferres, Florian Boesch, Miah Persson

"Viva la libertà!"

Alone in a secluded mansion, Giacomo Casanova cries out then collapses. When the mysterious and beautiful writer, Elisa von der Recke, comes to visit, it breathes new life into the old man.

A movie that captures the myth of the greatest seducer of all times, Casanova. His story is told both through fiction and on-stage opera performances that unravel the tale of his adventures, his passions, and ultimately his fear of death.

Release date

Available in



• Interviews
• In the wings
• Trailer




French, English, Portuguese

Disc features:

97 min | DVD 9 | PAL | DVD 9: 16x9 | 1.78: 1 | Color | 5.1 Dolby Digital | GENERAL AUDIENCE




John Malkovich - Giacomo Casanova

Veronica Ferres - Elisa von der Recke
Florian Boesch - Giacomo Casanova II
Miah Persson - Elisa Van der Recke II
Lola Naymark - Cecile
Kerstin Avemo - Leonilda
Maria João Bastos
Kate Lindsey - Bellino
Anna Prohaska - Caterina
Barbara Hannigan - Sofia
Topi Lehtipuu - Duke
Jonas Kaufmann - Branicki
Tracy Ann Obermann
Christopher Purves
Ana Maria Pinto
Maria João Luís
Victoria Guerra
Daniel Schumutzhard
Fanny Ardant
Christiane Lutz
José Corvelo
Maria João Pinho
Marina Alabuquerque
Miguel Monteiro


Based on “Histoire de ma vie” by Giacomo CASANOVA and opera scenes by Lorenzo DA PONTE and Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART

A film by Michael STURMINGER
Director of photography: André SZANKOWSKI AFC-AIP
Editor: Evi ROMEN
Costume & Production Design: Renate MARTIN, Andreas DONHAUSER with the collaboration of Isabel BRANCO
Original Sound: Jean Paul MUGEL
Sound Design: Karoline HEFLIN
Music producer: Erich HOFMANN
Assistant Director: José Maria VAZ DA SILVA
Co-author: Markus SCHLEINZER
Line Producer: Ana PINHÃO MOURA
Co-Producers: Stefan ARNDT, Uwe SCHOTT, Ulrich SEIDL
Music director: Martin HASELBÖCK
Orchestra: Orchester Wiener Akademie
With the participation of Grupo Vocal Olisipo
Written & Directed by Michael STURMINGER

An Alfama Films (Portugal - France) and Amour Fou Vienna production
in coproduction with X-Filme Creative Pool and Ulrich Seidl Filmproduktion

With the support of
Österreichisches Filminstitut
Filmstandort Austria
ICA Instituto do Cinema e do Audiovisual
Filmfonds Wien
Câmara Municipal de Lisboa
Associação de Turismo de Lisboa

In collaboration with
ORF Film / Fernseh-Abkommen
ZDF / Arte

Associate producer
Leopardo Filmes   

John Malkovich

American actor, producer and director, John Malkovich is an absolute worldwide star. He made his debut on stage, for theatre, by founding in 1976 the famous Steppenwolf Theater Company, which quickly became a reference in the United States, rewarded by numerous prizes. The revelation of Malkovich on the big screen happened in 1988 with the Dangerous Liaisons, embodying Valmont in Stephen Frears’ masterpiece. A decisive step as it paved the way of Malkovich’s brilliant career. To date, he has interpreted more than 70 international movies and has been directed by the greatest cineastes in the world. Malkovich has become a multiple Oscar nominee.

Veronica Ferres

Veronica Ferres is the most famous and popular German actress of her generation. In 1992, at the beginning of her career, she starred in the Oscar-nominated German movie Schtonk (1992). Then, she gained international fame as Pierre Richard’s co-star in the French movie Sans famille and as the horrible Mme. Thénardier in the 2000 French TV miniseries Les Misérables.  She made another notable splash with American audiences in Raul Ruiz’s Klimt. In 2007 she played with Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldblum in the international cinema production Adam Resurrected directed by Paul Schrader. Her constant choice of artistically demanding projects shows her devotion to her work.

Florian Boesch

Since his first recital in 2002 for the famous Schubertiade Festival in Schwarzenberg - Austria, the baritone Florian Boesch is frequently invited by the most prestigious operas in the world and by the greatest international festivals. He is notably renowned for his performances at Sakzburg’s Festival, at the Opera of Hamburg, Tokyo, Los Angeles and at Moscow’s Bolshoi. His work has lately been released on several CDs and DVDs. Nowadays, he’s one of the most acclaimed opera singers.

Miah Persson (​Singer)

Under contract with the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm, Miah Persson is the most acclaimed Swedish singers of her generation. She is also renowned as a soprano soloist in the major works of the sacred repertoire.

Lola Naymark

Lola debuted in the 1990’s in two TV features directed by Roger Vadim. In 2003, she joined Omar Shariff and Isabelle Adjani on François Dupeyron’s “Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran”. Her performance in “Brodeuses” received several accolades including a nomination for the Cesar Award of Best Promising Actress. “Brodeuses” also won the Critics’s Week Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival. She was directed by Robert Guediguian in 2009 (“L’Armée du Crime”) and 2014 (“Au fil d’Ariadne”). Also in 2014 she joined the cast of “Casanova Variations”, by Michael Sturminger.

Kerstin Avemo

Kerstin Avemo is a Swedish opera singer with an active international career as a coloratura soprano. She studied at the University College of Opera in Stockholm and debuted with classic tragic roles as Violetta in “La traviata” and Gilda in “Rigoletto”. Since 2003 she has worked at opera houses in Brussels, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Zurich, Paris, Lille, Copenhagen, Moscow, Madrid, Geneva and Strasbourg. In the spring of 2013 Avemo sang Despina in Mozart's Così fan tutte in a production of Michael Haneke for Teatro Real, in Madrid. In 2013 she participated in the filming of “Casanova Variations” directed by Michael Sturminger.


    Official Selection - In Competition


    Official Selection - Out of Competition

Michael Sturminger


«Viva la libertá!» 

It’s with this shout that Giacomo Casanova a.k.a. John Malkovich collapses on stage at the very beginning of the movie. The orchestra stops to play. Anxiety reigns. The comedians and the technical staff provide first aid. A doctor comes out of the public to offer his help. A close-up on the convulsing protagonist is screened in the background. At this very precise moment, it isn’t clear at all if it is Giacomo Casanova the character, or John Malkovich the performer, who is undergoing a stroke. But an opera singer disguised as a nurse arrives and transforms the scene in Commedia dell’arte: the show must go on! We understand that this movie will take entire freedom in mixing and matching the genres to finally claim: everything is Cinema!

The project entitled The Giacomo Variations has been keeping me busy for more than 3 years. In its theatre play version, it already aimed at surpassing the frontiers between genres. The film version, Casanova variations, we present you embodies, for me and my artistic partners, the ultimate culmination of an outstanding experience. This project doesn’t fit into traditional categories: it is a mix and match of cinema, music, theatre, literature, and history, plundering the greatest masterpieces of Opera - namely Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte - as well as the immense treasure that Giacomo Casanova left us with his 5000 pages autobiographical manuscript.

The link between Casanova, Mozart and Da Ponte - who knew each other well - is obvious inasmuch as they all three were living as free men and independent artists. Without stable resources, existential insecurity was their lifelong companion. However, they felt on an equal footing with aristocracy. Indeed, even if they weren’t stemming from nobility, they claimed their right to total freedom. When, towards the middle of the movie, Giacomo rebels against the aristocrats, threatening those who would disrespect him, we get how much this man was precursory, announcing the new era of the Great Revolution.

This claim for freedom is the key-motive of the script. As a filmmaker, it refers to the structural issues of the movie, as an echo of my vindication to freely mix genres and transpose canonised masterpieces in another context, to employ them as materials into a new form. We will capture Theatre for Cinema, nearly in a documentary way, to reinforce the impression that everything occurs instantly, that nothing is staged, that it is real life watching the stage from the wings.

Yet, we’ll be in a play, nearly in a game. Here, we’re living in a concentrated time events that have been spreading over seven decades, pieced together thanks to regained or reinvented souvenirs. The opera singers will mix with the actors, the sets will reshape, the costumes will transform, the voices will enchant and, above all, the music will sound in the most light, profound and intelligible tune that can be. And, without any perceptible transition, we will find ourselves completely elsewhere, in the 18th century, in a lost castle of Bohemia, where we assist to the last encounter between Giacomo and Elisa.

These are the same than the two on stage, but around them, everything is different. Here, nobody is singing, things are simpler, clearer and less magnificent. Everything is concentrated on the great duel between Elisa and Giacomo, two idealists without any illusions. We’re watching them feeling, impressing, rejecting each other to finally not fear one another anymore. In the end, it’s almost too late… but is it ever too late to share a moment of intimacy and understanding?

In the very beginning of the movie, when she appears in his life, Casanova has already been living for 15 years in this lost castle at the far end of the world. She appears in front of him like a strange being, coming from a faraway world; a being who has lost itself in his world, a world forgotten by God, where he leads a life of boredom and loneliness. A beautiful woman, cultured and self-confident, a writer who has earned a reputation and financial independence thanks to her book of revelations on the famous impostor Cagliostro. If she comes and visits Giacomo, maybe it is also to write on him, read his memoirs, and publish them?

Over this encounter floats the threat that Elisa came with the intention to mock him, in the same way she did before with his compatriot Cagliostro, to surpass the success of her first book. All the more since Cagliostro, as a libertine, was, by many ways, Casanova’s alter ego. In this context, the encounter between Elisa and Giacomo looks like a duel. Giacomo, who has nothing left to lose, tackles this fight as the last one of his existence. He struggles for his posterity and the world’s judgment on his life. But he also seeks to seduce this woman and win her heart.

My numerous collaborations with John Malkovich and Martin Haselböck these last years have deepened our work relation and have speeded up the development of our film project. After our cheering adventures with The Infernal Comedy, The Giacomo Variations has been a real challenge. If the stage requirements for the Comedy were quite simple, we’ve needed months to perfect the sequences in detail for The Variations.

Now, we are ready to direct this movie that we have deeply discussed and improved after putting it to the test of an audience on numerous occasions. While constructing the script, we’ve always seek to maintain the principle of a radical overrun of the genre borders, of an intimacy within the scenes, of a musical levity and fluidity, but overall, we tried to seize the opportunity of telling the fascinating story of this European figure. And it is true that there have been a bunch of films on Casanova, and that immense actors such a Sutherland, Mastroianni, Curtis, or even Ledger, have impersonated this legendary Venetian. Yet, none of them have had Malkovich’s perfect natural way to stand in front of the camera and claim: « I am Signore Giacomo Casanova! »

Michael Sturminger

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