Germany's Dreamtool Takes Rights to Siegfried Lenz's Best-Seller 'The Defector' (Exclusive)

Siegfried Lenz

The rediscovered novel, set in the final days of WWII, has been the German literary sensation of 2016.

Munich production company Dreamtool Entertainment has acquired film rights to The Defector, the surprise best-seller from late German writer Siegfried Lenz about a Wehrmacht soldier during WWII plagued by doubt and pondering desertion.

Lenz wrote the novel in 1951-52, but it was considered too politically provocative to publish at the time. It was only released this year, two years after his death, and became an instant best-seller.

The Defector is set in 1944, in the final summer of the war. Walter Proska is a young Wehrmacht soldier stationed in a forest stronghold near the Polish town of Lyck, part of a small unit tasked with defending the town's railway line from the advancing Soviet troops. Worn down by the oppressive heat, swarms of mosquitos and increasingly successful attacks by partisans, Proska begins to question the purpose of the war, who the real enemy is and whether his real duty should be to his fatherland or his own conscience.

After its rapturous reception in Germany, the novel has been widely translated and will be soon be published across continental Europe and in Turkey. Negotiations are underway with publishers in the U.S.

Bernd Lange, whose credits include the screenplays to Hans-Christian Schmid's Requiem and Storm and Robert Thalheim's And Along Come Tourists, will adapt Lenz's novel for the screen. Dreamtool's Stefan Raiser and Felix Zackor will produce.

“For me, reading [the novel] replaced a conversation with my grandfather that never happened,” said Lange in a statement. “At the same time the 25-year-old Lenz’s vision of postwar Germany and the division of the country, and his question concerning the guilt of those who rebuilt the nation are, from today’s perspective, almost clairvoyant.”

Production on The Defector is set to begin in 2018 for a 2020 release, timed to the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII. Beta Cinema will handle world sales on the project.

Founded in 1999 by Raiser and Zackor, Dreamtool Entertainment is best known for high-end German television productions including The Charlemagne Code and Bermuda Triangle North Sea. Its feature productions include Reg Traviss' Joy Division starring Tom Schilling (Generation War) and Anne Wild's Sisters, featuring Deutschland '83's Maria Schrader.