The remarkable and charismatic Ingeborg Bachmann has conquered the male dominated bastion of German-language literature with her poetry. Though still young, Ingeborg Bachmann is at the peak of her career when she meets the famous playwright Max Frisch. Their love is passionate, but professional and personal friction begins to disrupt the harmony. When Ingeborg is struggling, her friends are there to help, including Hans Werner Henze and the young Adolf Opel, a Viennese journalist and man of literature. They travel to the desert together. On this journey she finds a way back to herself and – above all – to her writing.


Margarethe von Trotta is a German director and scriptwriter who has been referred to as a "leading force" of the New German Cinema movement. She started her career as an actress for directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder und Volker Schlöndorff in the late 1960s but quickly gained interest in writing and directing feature films. In 1975, together with Volker Schlöndorff, she co-wrote and co-directed “The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum” (Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum) to critical acclaim. Two years later Margarethe von Trotta debuted her first solo feature film “The Second Awakening of Christa Klages” (Das zweite Erwachen der Christa Klages). In the following years she quickly became one of Germany’s leading female directors and an integral part of the German “Autorenkino”. Her films, which often centered around strong female protagonists and women in context of history, premiered at the most important international film festivals, such as Venice Film Festival, Festival de Cannes and Berlinale and were honored around the world (e.g. Golden Lion, German Film Award). In 2022 she received the European Cinema Lifetime Achievement Award.


2023 Ingeborg Bachmann -
Journey into the Desert
// Ingeborg Bachmann - Reise in die Wüste
2018 Searching for Ingmar Bergman
// Auf der Suche nach Ingmar Bergman
2017 Forget About Nick
// Forget About Nick
2014 The Misplaced World
// Die abhandene Welt
2012 Hannah Arendt
// Hannah Arendt
2009 Vision
// Vision - Aus dem Leben der Hildegard von Bingen
2006 I Am the Other Woman
// Ich bin die Andere
2003 Rosenstrasse
// Rosenstrasse
2000 Anniversaries
// Jahrestage
1999 Days of Darkness
// Dunkle Tage
1994 The Promise
// Das Versprechen
1993 Il Lungo Silenzio
// Zeit des Zorns
1990 L‘Africana
// Die Rückkehr
1988 Paura e Amore
// Fürchten und Lieben
1986 Rosa Luxemburg
// Rosa Luxemburg
1983 Heller Wahn
// Sheer Madness
1978 The Second Awakening of Christa Klages
// Das Zweite Erwachen der Christa Klages
1975 The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum
// Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum


Ingeborg Bachmann has been my “companion” for many years. Her poems, her stories. I even met her once, at Hans Werner Henze’s house near Rome.”

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“I used a line of Ingeborg Bachmann’s as a prefix for my film DIE BLEIERNE ZEIT (English title MARIANNE AND JULIANE, also known as THE GERMAN SISTERS): “Grieving, whatever else it may be, becomes a lonely business.” And in L’AFRICANA (English title THE AFRICAN WOMAN), my second film, which I shot in Italy, Samy Frey quotes from her poem “Explain love to me…”. Perhaps a kind of premonition that I should one day focus on Ingeborg Bachmann in a film dedicated to her. So when my producers suggested making a film about her, it seemed like a continuation of that unforgettable encounter. About her and her life with Max Frisch. But also going beyond that. Naturally it’s very difficult to do justice to such a versatile, complicated, even enigmatic woman and artist in a film. That’s why I restrict myself to just six years of her life. The four years she spent with Max Frisch and the two years afterwards, when she suffered from their separation and was only able to “heal” herself briefly by means of a journey to the desert with a younger man. In my view, Ingeborg Bachmann’s time with Max Frisch was an attempt on her part to live with commitment and freedom simultaneously. She was a confident woman, very aware of her significance, but she also knew that in the 50s and 60s it was difficult for women to assert themselves or even be taken seriously. She was taken seriously – and deeply admired by many people, including her fellow-writers – and at first she imagined that Max Frisch was strong enough to accept her, along with her “dark moments”. Two writers: Can they help each other, or are they incapable of avoiding rivalry, despite all the good intentions? I have attempted to interweave the two narrative strands: one involving commitment, being bound to a man, and the other based on freedom, not being tied down. In this way two different movements in life arise which come to permeate one another. The film begins with a dark scene at night: Ingeborg Bachmann has a nightmare where she is humiliated by Max Frisch. And it ends with a scene of dazzling brightness, as she leaves the desert, where she experienced a brief period of healing. These are the two extremes which appear in several variations during the film. From apparent happiness to unhappiness, from depression and weakness to regained delight at life itself. The light will also change again and again, along with the places where Ingeborg Bachmann lives. And each of them also depicts an inner stage in her life. Paris, Zurich, Rome, Berlin. The two of them meet in Paris, where the story begins. L’heure bleue, the blue hour, generally considered the hour of lovers in Paris. Also featured in a poem by Apollinaire about the agony of lost love. They both know the poem – but Ingeborg Bachmann knows it better: she can quote each line, while Max Frisch only knows two. A very early indication of what they will experience together. Again and again there will be these concealed clues: the people involved will not always recognize them, but the attentive viewer will be able to decode them. In Rome (Ingeborg Bachmann’s favorite city, where she lived before she met Max Frisch), she will stroll through the sun-drenched streets, relax in cafés; she will meet her great colleague, the poet Ungaretti; it will become apparent how deeply bound to the city she feels… In Zürich, his city, she feels alien, as if she were imprisoned, and consequently she can no longer write. When they move to Rome together it’s the other way round, and he feels that way. He can’t speak the language, he doesn’t know many people, and he often feels that she abandons him… Berlin, the city where she lived for a while after she and Max Frisch separated, represents sickness and sadness for her. From here a young man will take her with him to the desert, where she can overcome her melancholy. And again light will have a major role to play.”


“I love challenges” – Ten questions for Margarethe von Trotta 

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What’s your personal connection to Ingeborg Bachmann and Max Frisch?

Ingeborg Bachmann has long been one of my favourite authors.  As a young woman, I even wrote poems myself – but I never showed them to anyone, and I soon stopped. Later, I frequently referenced Bachmann in my films, long before I knew I would ever address her life and work directly in this way. The motto I chose for my film Marianne & Juliane was the Bachmann quote “Among the various deeds, mourning becomes the loneliest business” and in my film L’africana, which I shot in Italy, Samy Frey quotes from Bachmann’s poem “Explain to Me, Love”. In contrast, Max Frisch was someone I had to read at school. The first of his plays I saw was The Arsonists. It was the premiere of this play that Frisch invited Bachmann to attend in Paris.

The idea of making a film about Ingeborg Bachmann was suggested to you by the producers at tellfilm and AMOUR FOU. But it was your decision to focus on her relationship with Max Frisch. Why did this interest you? What story did you want to tell?

The producers let me choose for myself which period of Bachmann’s life I wanted to focus on. I opted for the four years she spent with Max Frisch because I was personally very interested in exploring a relationship between two writers and how they got along with one another (or sometimes didn’t). 

You once met Bachmann in person: in Rome in 1972. Did that encounter influence the way you portrayed her in the film?

It’s true: Volker Schlöndorff and I met her at Hans Werner Henze’s house around a year before her death. At that time she was probably already quite debilitated. In any case, she was very reserved, and most of the conversation took place between the men.

You have made several films centring around female historical figures: Rosa Luxemburg, Hildegard von Bingen and Hannah Arendt. Now, for the first time, your main character is an artist. Do you have a particular affinity for Ingeborg Bachmann? Do you see something of yourself in the character you depict in this film?

For every character that I depict in my films, I try to find a “correspondence” in the Baudelairean sense. But, unlike the other historical figures, Bachmann wasn’t initially so alien to me. Age-wise, she could have been my elder sister.

How did you work out what the story was going to be? What kind of research did you do? How much did historical accuracy matter to you?

I think it’s normal for a screenwriter to start out by reading as much as possible and assimilating large amounts of material. Also, we tend to speak to people who knew the person in question. That’s why I always need a long preparation period to get inside the person or people I want to portray. But it’s only ever my personal perception; I would never claim to be able to gain a complete picture of who somebody is or was, with all their inherent complexities and contradictions.

The story is told cleverly and sensitively via flashbacks: while travelling with Adolf Opel, Bachmann thinks back to her relationship with Frisch. What made you choose that structure?

Telling stories in flashbacks enables you to only describe those moments you consider important and pertinent. It also allowed me to have two separate timelines: the time when Bachmann is journeying across the desert, feeling weak and ill; in the end, she feels a sense of release. And then there is the storyline with Frisch running counter to that: it begins euphorically and ends sadly. 

During shooting, the film had the working title “Bachmann & Frisch”. Why did you finally decide on the title Ingeborg Bachmann – Journey into the Desert?

BACHMANN & FRISCH does describe the four years the two lived together, in that respect it is not wrong, but it is a little striking. The current title fits the film as I realised it: The focus is on Ingeborg Bachmann and her struggle for independence.

You cast Vicky Krieps in the title role and Ronald Zehrfeld as Max Frisch. The viewer may have some reservations about these casting choices when they begin watching the movie, but by the end, they can’t imagine anyone else in those roles. What is it about Vicky Krieps and Ronald Zehrfeld that made them the perfect choice? 

I knew I wanted those two principal actors from the beginning. I had seen Vicky Krieps in Phantom Thread, and I think that Ronald Zehrfeld is one of the most sensitive actors in Germany, despite his imposing physique. I did try to find a Swiss actor to play Frisch, but no one was as convincing as Ronald. When it came to the role of Bachmann, I needed an actor who was able to quickly go from being very serious to delivering a dazzling smile. I had seen that several times in documentary footage of Bachmann. For example, she made this very negative comment about men, and the journalist who was interviewing her was obviously shocked. But then she flashes her radiant smile and says, “Didn’t you know that?” And only Vicky Krieps could deliver that smile the way I wanted it.

What was it like working with the young actor Tobias Resch as Adolf Opel, who is playing his first major role with you?

It was pure luck to have found this young actor. He not only corresponds to the young Adolf Opel, as he describes himself in his memoirs, but also makes Ingeborg Bachmann, i.e. Vicky Krieps, "glow" through his presence, through his acting.

Because this is an international co-production, you had to work with lots of new faces in the film crew. How did it influence your approach? What was it like shooting a film with so many artists behind the camera that you didn’t yet know?

I was rather daunted because I hadn’t yet worked with a single person on the crew and I didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully, I had been able to pick out who I wanted, but only from the countries that were co-financing the project. To my great relief and joy, it all worked out very well. Perhaps that’s the kind of challenge one should take on more often. 

You spent 40 days shooting in six different countries – all during the Covid-19 pandemic! Wasn’t that extremely tiring?

Yes, it was. But I love challenges, so during the shoot, I actually began feeling stronger and healthier.


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What does Ingeborg Bachmann mean to you? Were you familiar with her and her work before you began tackling Ingeborg Bachmann – Journey into the Desert?

As far as I’m concerned, Ingeborg Bachmann is one of the greatest poets of all time. Yes, of course, I was familiar with her work, but apart from her correspondence with Paul Celan, I didn’t know anything about her private life. It was horrifying to learn how much she suffered in order to be free and how her belief in love was crushed.

What attracted you to the project? Why did you want to be a part of it?

Simone Bär sent me the screenplay and I was really surprised by it. It was very good; it was fresh and young. And it had something to say – something that I also felt inside myself. And so I wrote a personal letter to Margarethe telling her about this connection I felt with the screenplay and how much I would like to work with her.

Was it easy for you to slip into that role? How did you prepare for it? How important did you feel it was to deliver an accurate portrayal of Ingeborg Bachmann?

I don’t really like this concept of “slipping into” a role. For outsiders, it seems like the interesting part of my work, but it’s actually the boring bit: it’s just homework. If I were to ask you how much fun you had doing homework as a schoolkid, I doubt you’d tell me it was a blast. What comes afterwards is what matters. Whether I can be brave enough to follow the material blindly, through the gloom, whether I am daring enough not to think about all that homework, to walk into the unknown – to just watch and listen. When you’re acting, the only thing that counts is being in the moment. Working with the director, the lighting, the camera, sound, costume, props and colleagues – all of that is real and present, all of it is trying to enter into a dialogue with me. And so I have to be still and quiet and not think about my homework.

What was it like working with Ronald Zehrfeld? What makes him exciting as an actor?

More than anything else, Ronald was one thing for me: unexpected. And that’s precisely what matters. Because that’s what makes me really want to get to know someone. I had always imagined Max Frisch as a weaker character, much more uptight and restrained. But from the first day we sat down around the table with Simone Bär and Alexandra Montag, I could see that it was going to work. Margarethe had this vision from the beginning, and I would say she was proved right! From that point on, it was a total pleasure and so straightforward to “work” with Ronald – or, as I like to say, to “dance” with him.

What was it like working with Margarethe von Trotta? How would you describe her as a director? What sets her apart?

Margarethe and I are two women who are moved by the same things, and during our work together on this project, we were able to communicate very well across the generations. It was incredibly exciting. And fulfilling. It was fascinating to see how certain topics remain relevant down the years. Particularly with regard to this topic – women’s liberation – it was interesting to see women pulling together, as all too often we forget that we are not alone. That was a gift. Everything about this project was a gift!

The film was shot in six different countries during the Covid-19 pandemic and you had a very demanding role to play. What are your abiding memories of the shoot?

Travelling, going to all those countries, was another gift. We were able to travel to all the places where everything happened. And I believe that makes a big difference – analogue experiences are more authentic. Interacting physically with a location is always different from simply imagining it. We did also work in the studio, but I found the real locations much more significant. In the studio there’s a bigger risk of sliding back into that “homework” situation.


Vicky Krieps

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Vicky Krieps’ International breakout role was in THE PHANTOM THREAD, opposite Daniel Day Lewis, in Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece about the couturier ‘Reynolds Woodcock’, set in 1950’s London. The film received awards recognition and critics were struck by her performance. IndieWire wrote; “Krieps, whose wondrous face bookends the movie, takes charge of this seemingly male-dominated narrative and makes it her own” and Vanity Fair calling it “a terrific breakthrough performance, wise and clever and sexy.”

Vicky has recently received high acclaim for her role in CORSAGE, a fictional account of one year in the life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria directed by Marie Kreutzer. In 2022 Vicky won Best Performance in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes Film Festival and, most recently, Best Actress at both the European Film Awards and Sarajevo Film Festival. CORSAGE was longlisted for the Best International Feature Film at the Oscars, and has been nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language.

Vicky also starred as Hélène Mouchet, in Emily Atef’s MORE THAN EVER opposite the late Gaspard Ulliel, which received its premiere at Cannes Film Festival 2022. ‘Hélène’ is a woman who discovers she suffers from a rare lung disease and embarks on a journey across Europe to find peace and to meet a blogger she met online.

We will next see Vicky as Ingeborg Bachmann in Margarethe von Trotta’s INGEBORG BACHMANN: JOURNEY INTO THE DESERT which will premiere at Berlinale. The film follows the relationship between writers Bachmann and Max Frisch (Ronald Zehrfeld). Later in 2023, Vicky will star in THE THREE MUSKETEERS, a big budget, two part feature, with Eva Green and Vincent Cassel.

Vicky recently wrapped on THE DEAD DON’T HURT, opposite Viggo Mortensen. Set in the 1860s, it follows the fiercely independent French Canadian, Vivienne Le Coudy (Krieps) who embarks on a relationship with Danish immigrant Holger Olsen.

Further credits include Mia Hansen-Løve's drama BERGMAN ISLAND opposite Tim Roth, Mathieu Amalric’s MOI FORT (HOLD ME TIGHT), Barry Levinson’s THE SURVIVOR, M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller, OLD, Netflix’s BECKETT, opposite John David Washington, Govinda Van Maele’s GUTLAND, Raoul Peck’s THE YOUNG KARL MARX, Marie Kreutzer’s WE USED TO BE COOL, Fede Alvarez’s THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB, alongside Claire Foy and Sverrir Gudnason, TV mini-series DAS BOOT, THE COLONY, alongside Emma Watson and Daniel Bruhl, Anton Corbijn’s A MOST WANTED MAN, Roland Emmerich’s ANONYMOUS, and Joe Wright’s HANNA starring Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett.

Having studied at the Zurich University of Arts, Vicky has featured in a variety of European film projects. Vicky was part of the ensemble at the Schauspielhaus Zurich for many years. Vicky came into international spotlight with her supporting role in Eileen Byrne‘s LA NUIT PASSÉE for which she was awarded "Best Youngster" in 2008 at the Busho Festival Budapest. She has also appeared in BEFORE THE WINTER CHILL directed by Philippe Claudel and starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Detlev Buck‘s MEASURING THE WORLD and Georg Maas‘ Academy Award TWO LIVES which was nominated for "Best Foreign Language Film". Other credits include THE CHAMBERMAID, BROTHERHOOD OF TEARS, MOBIUS and TIED.

Ronald Zehrfeld

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Participating in a theatre workshop awakened the interest of the East Berlin-born (1977) actor Ronald Zehrfeld. He then began his training at the renowned Hochschule für Schauspielkunst "Ernst Busch" Berlin. While still a student, he was discovered by Peter Zadek for the Deutsches Theater in Berlin (including "Mother Courage", 2003). The Berliner Ensemble and St. Pauli Theatre Hamburg followed. After Stephan Schiffers' short film GOLDJUNGE (2005), Dominik Graf cast him in his award-winning drama THE RED COCKATOO (2006) alongside Max Riemelt and Jessica Schwarz. For television, Zehrfeld appeared alongside Iris Berben for the ZDF production "Der russische Geliebte" (2008) in another leading role. He also appeared in the television two-parter „The Final Days" and in the feature film production AT ANY SECOND (both 2008) by Jan Fehse. In 2009 followed the leading role as pirate Klaus Störtebeker in Sven Taddicken's adventure comedy 12 PACES WITHOUT A HEAD. In 2011 Zehrfeld played a supporting role in Christian Schwochow's drama CRACKS IN THE SHELL, which was set in the theatre milieu. He portrayed his first intellectual film character in Christian Petzold's drama BARBARA alongside Nina Hoss. His portrayal of a paediatrician transferred to the GDR provinces earned him his first nomination for the German Film Award. Zehrfeld also starred in the multi-award-winning TV series „In the Face of Crime" (2010, directed by Dominik Graf) and „The Weissensee Saga" (2013, directed by Friedemann Fromm). For his portrayal of commissioner Heinz Gödick in "Mord in Eberswalde" by Stephan Wagner, he received the actor award at the 25th Baden-Baden Television Film Festival. In 2013 he appeared in Frauke Finsterwalder's cinema debut FINSTERWORLD, and in 2014 in films such as INBETWEEN WORLDS by Feo Aladag, BELOVED SISTERS by Dominik Graf, PHOENIX by Christian Petzold and THE KING’S SURRENDER by Philipp Leinemann. Under the direction of Lars Kraume, he also embodies the title role "Dengler" in the ZDF crime thrillers based on bestselling novels by Wolfgang Schorlau. Ronald Zehrfeld most recently starred in the successful ARD/Sky series "Babylon Berlin" (directed by Achim von Borries, Henk Handloegten, Tom Tykwer), "Warten auf'n Bus" (directed by Fabian Möhrke), in the feature film "Das Ende der Wahrheit" (directed by Philipp Leinemann), as well as Margarethe von Trotta Berlinale Competition participant INGEBORG BACHMANN - REISE IN DIE WÜSTE.

Tobias Resch

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Tobias Resch (1996; Lower Austria) studied acting at the Musik und Kunst Privatuniversität der Stadt Wien (MUK) from 2016 to 2020. Already during his studies he had engagements among others at the Vienna Volkstheater directed by Robert Gerloff, as well as at the Vienna Burgtheater in "Die Bakchen" (2019)staged by Ulrich Rasche. In 2021 Tobias Resch began to work increasingly in the field of film and television. In the film "Klammer - Chasing the Line" (2021) he played the young downhill racer Sepp Walcher directed by Andreas Schmied. In the directorial debut "Breaking the Ice" (2021) by Clara Stern, Resch took on the role of Paul Fink. He gained greater notoriety for his performance as the young investigator Lukas Leodolter in the ARD/MDR/ORF series "Tage die es nicht gab" (2021) (from 2/14-23 ARD), directed by Mirjam Unger and Anna-Katharina-Maier. In the same year, the short film project "Am Grat" was realized. Tobias Resch not only played one of the main roles but was also responsible for the script together with director Matteo Sanders. At the theater festival "Hin und Weg" in Litschau, he performed the self-written play "Wer hat Angst vorm weißen Mann" (Who's Afraid of the White Man) (2021) on his own stage together with actor Enrico Riethmüller. In the film "Bachmann - Reise in die Wüste" (2022) by Margarethe von Trotta, Tobias Resch played the young author Adolf Opel. Most recently, he was in front of the camera for the Sky series "Helgoland 513" (2022-2023) as Linus Storbeck, directed by Robert Schwentke. Tobias Resch lives and works in Vienna.

Basil Eidenbenz

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Basil Eidenbenz was born in Zurich in 1993. In 2009 he took on his first role in the SRF series “Best Friends” before moving to London; he has now been living there for 10 years and regularly stars in various productions. In 2015, he took on a part in the CBC series “X Company”. This was followed by roles in projects such as the two series “Victoria” and “Athena”, in which he played the lead. He also starred alongside Emma Stone, Oliva Coleman and Rachel Weisz in the award-winning film “The Favourite”.

In 2019, he followed up with what was probably his biggest project to date, the role of “Eskel” in one of the most successful Netflix series: “The Witcher” with Henry Cavill. Thanks to his musically talent, he impressed in 2020 as the composer and pianist Johannes Brahms in “Johannes Brahms - Die Pranke des Löwen” (Johannes Brahms - The Lion's Paw). His latest projects include the film “Ingeborg Bachmann - Journey into the Desert” by Margarethe von Trotta and the fifth film in the “Indiana Jones” series. Both projects are expected to be released in 2023.


Vicky Krieps
as Ingeborg Bachmann

Ronald Zehrfeld
as Max Frisch

Tobias Resch
as Adolf Opel

Basil Eidenbenz
as Hans Werner Henze


Director: Margarethe von Trotta
Director of Photography: Martin Gschlacht
Production Design: Su Erdt
Editor: Hansjörg Weißbrich
Costume Design: Uli Simon
Make-Up Artist: Marc Hollenstein, Miriam Blank
Original Score: André Mergenthaler
Original Sound: Patrick Storck
Sound Design: Jacques Kieffer, Gina Keller
Mix: Michel Schillings
Casting: Simone Bär, Lisa Olàh
Line Producers: Christos Dervenis, Julian Berner, Sascha Verhey, André Fetzer
Producers: Katrin Renz, Bady Minck, Bettina Brokemper, Alexander Dumreicher-Ivanceanu


Duration: 111 min
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Format:  DCP
Sound: 5.1
Year: 2023
Original languages: German, French, Italian
Countries of production: Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, Jordan, Italy
Production Companies: tellfilm, AMOUR FOU Vienna, Heimatfilm, Amour Fou Luxembourg
Co-production Companies: ORF Film/Fernsehabkommen, SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen / SRG SSR, ZDF, ARTE
With the support of: Filmfund Luxembourg, FISA Filmstandort Austria, Zürcher Filmstiftung, Film- und Medienstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Bundesamt für Kultur (BAK), Eurimages, Österreichisches Filminstitut, DFFF Deutscher Filmförderfonds, Filmfonds Wien, FISS Filmstandortförderung Schweiz, FFA Filmförderungsanstalt, MEDIA Desk Suisse, G+B Schwyzer Stiftung, Land Niederösterreich, Land Kärnten, FOCAL