Friday, 13 June 2008


Germany, in a future not so far. In a land where chaos and brutal force rule, Jonas Klingenberg (Mathis Landwehr) must get back a venerable and mysterious book containing the secrets of all the ancient martial arts in a world where all fire weapons have disappeared. This book has been stolen to his old master, murdered by Bosco (Christian Monz) and Kleo (Zora Holt) - the ruthless and deadly heirs of a cruel warlord. With the help of Vinzent Lakotta (Volkram Zschiesche), his sister Marie (Sinta Weisz) and their group of refugees, Jonas seeks the book and challenges the dictatorship of Bosco.

« My disciple. In year 2045 had the war of the cities spread all over Europe. The future had become the past. The government ceased to exist [...] All the country sank into chaos and destruction. » (Master Tach)

« Like I always say, if you run fast enough you’ll fly » (Master Dobbs)


The genesis of The Challenge begins in summer 1999. Johannes Jaeger, Tobias Hartmann, Volkram Zschiesche, Mathis Landwehr and Christian Monz are members of the Ehrenwerte Gesellschaft aka Ehge (The Honorable Society), a group of martial artists. They have the project to shoot a martial arts movie in Stuttgart, the title : Kampfansage.

The project materializes under the form of a short film (10 minutes) shot in MiniDV in 21 days with 150 shots, over 2000 takes, hard work, faith and the sense of timing of its director-writer Johannes Jaeger. The story : three friends (Volkram Zschiesche, Mathis Landwehr and Christian Monz) are hanging out on a sofa watching the video of a kung fu movie. They fall asleep and dream that they are part of the movie but is it a dream ?

« As the proverb say : you should dig your well before you become thirsty. » (Master Tach, dead but wise)

The look of the production, the effective choreography of the fights and the quality of the result allow the team to add another chapter to the Kampfansage saga. With a different story and different characters but the same main cast and fight sequences still packed with style by Jaeger, Kampfansage 2 (2002) impresses and is shown on a german cable channel and through festivals where the short film gets two awards.

The two Kampfansage shorts catch the attention of Hermann Joha, producer, founder and CEO of the german company action concept, stunt artist, professional helicopter pilot, director, and the genius who has literally invented a new action genre with some tv series such as Alarm for Cobra 11 and The Clown. At the time, action concept is working on the development of its cinema unit with The Clown - The movie. Ehrenwerte Gesellschaft and Joha join forces to push the Kampfansage spirit to limits never reached before.


« It was still the same city, yet a dark shadow seemed to have descended over the ruins. » (Jonas)

With a financing of 300 000 euros by action concept and about 40 days of shooting (between september and november 2003), Kampfansage’s resident visionary and scribe Johannes Jaeger imagines Kampfansage - Der letzte Schüler, and creates a Berlin revisited by Ken Fist of the North Star or A boy and its dog with the assistance of, the Online-Community for Digital Filmmaking founded by Steffen Hacker and Daniel Nolde.

The honorable martial artists, choreographers and acting members of of the Ehrenwerte Gesellschaft are back : Mathis Landwehr is the hero, Jonas Klingenberg, left dead (« I’ve been away for a while ») thanks to vicious Kleo but eager to find the book stolen to his master. Jonas is a german modern Kwaï Chang Caine less the naiveness - « Isn’t it a bit unfair, six versus one » - and with a touch of Clint Eastwood and Remo Williams (a blond Remo - Think about it, James Bond is blond too now).

Christian Monz is Bosco, Kleo’s brother and murderer of Jonas’ Master, a cross between Darth Vader (his lieutenants should pray for Bosco to follow an anger management program) and Master Nuihc of The Destroyer books. Volkram Zschiesche is Vinzent Lakotta, the martial artist leader of gang of street kids, a Mel Gibson made in Germany with a concern about food and a solid sense of humor (« Shit, I thought it was some kind of cookbook »).

Fortunately, the leading ladies equal the male characters in personality. Zora Holt plays Kleo, sister dearest of Bosco (« You go through your men even faster than me ») and the last girl in Germany who uses a gun instead of martial art chops (and this is not a Derringer) and Sinta Weisz is Marie, Vinzent’s sister and the love interest of Jonas.


« But if you don’t stop ruining my good mood with all this shit, then I’ll kill you. » (Bosco, Zen not included)

Up to 80 people on the set, up to 15 office employees and 20 people working for the stunt team, more than 350 visual effects shots (created by Hackermovies and Unexpected Gmbh), more than 100 hours of unedited material (excluding Making Of) needed to be reduced to 90 minutes, and production values extraordinary for such a budget and for a movie filmed in Mini35 DV. To find action concept attached to such a project is not a surprise.

« You really enjoy war games.
- Who talks about games ? » (Malte - Cypher, anyone ? - and Jonas)

With The Challenge, Johannes Jaeger delivers not only Germany’s first martial arts movie but above all a damn good movie which owes to the best of Hong Kong entries, but also in some ways to Spaghetti western, US blockbusters or classics such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (« As soon as you touch the ground roll »), Flash Gordon, Luc Besson’s movies (« He’ll never pull out ») or Pulp Fiction (with « Men are like dog » Kleo as Uma Thurman).

Splendid art martial fights, action, humor, anthologic scenes (the « disco » attack, the confrontation between Vinzent and Kleo, among many others...), cult dialogue lines (« That’s what happens when you fight against midgets »), a great score (by Alex Pfeffer and Marco Jovic) and martial artists who can act too. The Challenge - The last apprentice has all and more.

We expect with the highest interest and the greatest impatience the next project of the Ehrenwerte Gesellschaft and praise the name of action concept and the flair of Hermann Joha.

« But this is the way to Mastery : learning to fight, then fighting, then no longer having to fight, and then - forgetting everything » (Master Jonas)

(c) Thierry Attard

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