The Cold Heart

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A poor and lonely charburner (Franz Schnyder as Peter Munk) trades his heart to a demon of the forest (Stefan Schnabel), hoping to improve his condition… Shot in the early 1930s by renowned pianist Karl Ulrich Schnabel and finished in 2016 with a enthralling soundtrack by Robert Israel, this spellbinding silent film is a fascinating accomplishment, starring Swiss director Franz Schnyder and Stefan Schnabel.

About the project

The Cold Heart“ is based on a famous German legend. Its main characters derive from the traditional handcrafts of the Black Forest, the charburners, gaffers and raftsmen, and the rivalry of them.
„Filmed in 1931–33 by the young piano teacher Karl Ulrich Schnabel, ‚The Cold Heart‘ is a curiosity, a long-unfinished film that remained hidden for years until the reels were found and restored by Raff Fluri. In this morality tale set largely in the forests and villages of the Black Forest, the protagonist, Peter Munk (played by young Swiss filmmaker Franz Schnyder), encounters challenges that test his soul along his magical journey. A creative exploration of film form that uses superimpositions, stop motion, and on-screen text, Schnabel’s work has an aesthetic affinity with the psychodramas of avant-garde filmmakers such as Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger, and Stan Brakhage.“

Susan Oxtoby,

Renowned pianist Karl Ulrich Schnabel produced this fantasy film using his own, modest means but with the support of his friends and family in the surroundings of Berlin.
Due to the political development in Germany the film could not be completed until 2009, when Swiss filmmaker Raff Fluri became aware of the project in connection with its leading actor Franz Schnyder.


In 2016, about 83 years later, the film could finally be finished. The present restored version is based on the unique but shortened 16 mm print.

Markus, Lisbeth and Raff at the grading.

Markus Altenberger, Raff Fluri and Lisbeth during digital restoring and color grading at Taurus Digital Media, Munich

A version as faithful as possible to the original, based on the director’s notes and supplemented with work material and cut scenes, has been recreated. A few intertitles have been added for better understanding.


The Robert Israel Orchestra (Olomouc, Czech Republi) recording the sound (Image: Raff Fluri).

No evidence of a planned soundtrack was found in the director’s notes. Acclaimed composer Robert Israel, who knew Schnabel’s musical work well, composed the soundtrack to his best knowledge and after extensive research..


Karl Ulrich Schnabel

Karl Ulrich Schnabel (1909-2001), Biography on

Franz Schnyder

Franz Schnyder (1910-1993) was a Swiss film director and screenwriter, born in
Burgdorf (Switzerland) and studied in Germany. He directed 15 films between 1941 and 1968. His film „Der 10. Mai“ was opened the 8th Berlin International Film Festival. He died on February 8, 1993 in Münsingen, Bern.

Elfriede Gärtner

Elfriede Gärtner (1905-1984)

Stefan Schnabel

Stefan Schnabel (1912-1999), Biography on

Actual screenings

Due to the corona pandemic, a lot of people have to stay at home. Therefore, no actual screenings are announced. „The Cold Heart“ is available on VoD ( and BluRay.

Past screenings


  • Actually no english press or articles

German and French articles