TorinoFilmLab - Training, development, Funding


Almost Alive

Pedram Dahl



A ruthless arms dealer, Conrad Wieth is about to retire when he is commissioned to hunt down the highly prized bones of Peking Man. Conrad is unfazed by the mystique surrounding the bones, including the spell that they cast on those who seek to conceal them.

Conrad’s quest brings him to the gates of Villa Calibano in Tuscany,
a mansion housing the reclusive descendants of the late General Pier Francesco Calibano. A hero of the Pacific wars and an ardent fascist to the end of his days, the General lived an insular life and died of a mysterious death.

Conrad realizes that Villa Calibano is shrouded in mystery: why was the late General terrified of mirrors? Why did the General’s wife and granddaughter vanish without a trace? Who is the lingering figure in the tower of the Villa?

While investigating the location of the bones, Conrad comes face-to-face with the tragedies that have befallen the House of Calibano for generations. Exploring the secrets of the family prompts Conrad to believe that there is indeed a curse at work. But can Conrad destroy what he came looking for in order to free everyone from their affliction?


Almost Alive by Danish novelist Liv Mørk commences in 500.000 BC with an anecdote about the hominid that came to be known as Peking Man and how his fellow cave dwellers murdered him. The story leaps forward to the early twentieth century and the travails of the Italian general Pier Francesco Calibano who discovers the Peking Man bones during the war and brings them back to Tuscany, triggering a series of unfortunate and ominous events that befall the General and his offspring. The book goes on to chronicle the life of the Calibanos over three generations and how the bones’ curse results in one tragedy after another.

Adapting this dense book was a daunting task, one that also proffered many possibilities. One of the challenges of the book, apart from condensing the plotline, was to determine the thematic intent of its creator. Two elements struck me as central among the multitude of events and destinies depicted in the novel. Firstly, the characters were engaged in a struggle against forces beyond their control. Secondly, I understood the book as a fictional rendition of the mechanisms of totalitarianism.

By breaking down the traits of the totalitarian mindset - so vividly embedded in the characters of the novel - I noted several polarities that became dramatic jet-fuel for the screenplay: the tension between the Insider vs. the Outsider, captivity vs. freedom, erotic pleasure vs. restraint, as well as an unwavering persistence of these ideas in the minds of people - a “curse”, in other words.

I settled for Conrad Wieth for the main character, a cursory figure in the book who nevertheless plays a pivotal role in the fate of the Calibanos. To me Conrad was part philosopher, part comic-book villain - the embodiment of the relentless Seeker. Through Conrad, I had someone to identify with: a rootless searcher who could melt into any setting, a recluse that subverted the status quo and helped the reader demystify a complex world. There was something unequivocally familiar about Conrad; no wonder “Conrad” turns up in my other scripts and short films!

By making him the main character of the story, I tried to hit two birds with one stone: on one hand I would have an adventurer with the impetus to look through the opaque facade of Villa Calibano, while his emotional flaws could embody the theme of the story.

With all the effort that I have put into this adaption so far, I am confident that I have written a suspenseful, delightfully odd and mischievous film that will hold the audience captive under its spell from the first moment to the last.

Conrad becomes a captive of his quest and has to destroy what he is looking for in order to become free.
Pedram Dahl

Scriptwriter, Film Director

production notes

directed by
Pedram Dahl

produced byLa Cabeza de Alfredo Productions
N Skolgatan 6b
21152, Malmo