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New Austrian Film

New Austrian Film

Robert von Dassanowsky
Oliver C. Speck
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    New Austrian Film
    Book Description:

    Out of a film culture originally starved of funds have emerged rich and eclectic works by film-makers that are now achieving the international recognition that they deserve: Barbara Albert, Michael Haneke, Ulrich Seidl, and Stefan Ruzowitzky, to give four examples. This comprehensive critical anthology, by leading scholars of Austrian film, is intended to introduce and make accessible this much under-represented phenomenon. Although the book covers the full development of the Austrian new wave it focuses on the period that has brought it global attention: 1998 to the present.New Austrian Filmis the only book currently available on this topic and will be an essential reference work for academics, students and filmmakers, interested in modern Austrian film.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-232-0
    Subjects: Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction New Austrian Film: The Non-exceptional Exception
    (pp. 1-18)
    Robert von Dassanowsky and Oliver C. Speck

    In an article in 2006, theNew York Timesintroduced a series of screenings of Austrian productions with the following statement: “In recent years this tiny country with a population the size of New York City’s has become something like the world capital of feel-bad cinema” (Lim 2006). As the critic portrays the major directors, a picture emerges that probably sums up a common sentiment regarding New Austrian Film: not unlike other cinematic new waves, Austria’s artists are engaged in a bitter fight against the prevailing petit-bourgeois mindset of their fellow citizens. From this perspective, however, it must appear that...


    • Chapter 1 “The Experiment Is Not Yet Finished”: VALIE EXPORT’s Avant-garde Film and Multimedia Art
      (pp. 21-42)
      Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger

      I have screamed with the voice that belongs to me.

      I have bitten with the teeth that belong to me.

      I have scratched with the nails that belong to me.

      I have cried with the tears that belong to me.

      I have seen with the eyes that belong to me.

      I have thought with the thoughts that belong to me.

      I have laughed with the laugh that belongs to me.

      I have kissed with the mouth that belongs to me.

      I have slept with the dreams that belong to me.

      That is the life that belongs to me.

      —”Images of...

    • Chapter 2 Franz Antel’s Bockerer Series: Constructing the Historical Myths of Second Republic Austria
      (pp. 43-53)
      Joseph Moser

      The debate over Austria’s founding myths has played a central role in the study of Austrian literature, film, history, and culture since 1986. Kurt Waldheim’s election as federal president and Jörg Haider’s election as head of the FPÖ (Freedom Party) in that year triggered a large discussion of the country’s past.¹ The founding myth of Austria as Hitler’s first victim and the resulting picture of Austria’s collective innocence in the Second World War and the Holocaust were the most prominent misconceptions, ones which have been rejected largely by most Austrians. The country’s neutrality in the Cold War; the economic miracle...

    • Chapter 3 Historical Drama of a Well-intentioned Kind: Wolfgang Glück’s 38 – Auch das war Wien
      (pp. 54-63)
      Felix W. Tweraser

      The New Austrian Film of the 1980s began to produce popular historical dramas portraying Austria during theAnschlussand the ensuing period of Nazi rule. Peter Turrini’sAlpensaga(1976–1980), Franz Antel’sDer Bockerer/The Bockerer(1981), Axel Corti’sEine blaβblaue Frauenschrift/A Woman’s Pale Blue Handwriting(1984) andWohin und zurück/Somewhere and Back(1985/86), and Wolfgang Glück’s 38 –Auch das war Wien/38 – Vienna Before the Fall(1986) found large audiences domestically, and in the case of Glück’s film, which was nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign-language film in 1987, was successful on the international market. Such films...

    • Chapter 4 Cartographies of Identity: Memory and History in Ruth Beckermann’s Documentary Films
      (pp. 64-78)
      Christina Guenther

      It is at the margins of documentary film¹ that Jewish-Austrian filmmaker Ruth Beckermann has explored the central sociopolitical questions that launched and still inform much of her work: “Who are we, children of the second generation? What characterizes us?”²

      Born to Holocaust survivors in 1952, Beckermann writes that only as an adult in the 1980s was she able to speak about the feelings caused by the overt marginalization of Jewish life in postwar Austria. In a 1989 collection of essaysUnzugehörig, she writes that her Jewish compatriots perceived their Viennese childhood and youth in spatial terms as a “no-man’s land,”...


    • Chapter 5 A New Community of Women: Barbara Albert’s Nordrand
      (pp. 81-93)
      Dagmar Lorenz

      The work of the Austrian filmmaker Barbara Albert is informed by feminist theory and an awareness of the ideas feminist intellectuals and artists advocated in the 1970s and 1980s.¹ Her filmNordrand/Northern Skirts(1999) suggests that there are new options available to women coming of age at the turn of the new millennium. Yet it takes exceptional circumstances for her protagonists to recognize and avail themselves of their opportunities and forge a life of their choosing against the pressures of their misogynist environment.

      Nordrandwas Albert’s first major feature film and an immediate success, receiving the Thomas-Pluch Film Script Prize,...

    • Chapter 6 Metonymic Visions: Globalization, Consumer Culture, and Mediated Affect in Barbara Albert’s Böse Zellen
      (pp. 94-107)
      Imke Meyer

      In 1999, Barbara Albert’s feature filmNordrand/Northern Skirtswas nominated for a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.¹ As Robert von Dassanowsky observes, the showing of Albert’s film at the festival spoke to the fact that a “new era” had really begun in Austrian cinema, as “no Austrian film had competed in decades” in Venice (Dassanowsky 2005: 259). Dassanowsky ranks Albert along with Michael Haneke and Peter Tscherkassy as one of “the three most internationally significant Austrian filmmakers recognized for their stylistic impact” in the last decade of the twentieth century (ibid.: 253).² Albert followed upNordrand, the first...

    • Chapter 7 Place and Space of Contemporary Austria in Barbara Albert’s Feature Films
      (pp. 108-121)
      Mary Wauchope

      Each of the three feature films of the Austrian filmmaker Barbara Albert—Nordrand/Northern Skirts(1999),Böse Zellen/Free Radicals(2003), andFallen/Falling(2006)—focuses on a group of characters who repeatedly cross paths within a limited geographic area of Austria: the city of Vienna inNorthern Skirts, and small Austrian towns inFree RadicalsandFalling. Typical of such “ensemble films” is that the community which develops among the main characters functions in many ways as a microcosm of the larger community in which they live. Through her characters, then, Albert paints a picture of modern Austria (and by extension of...

    • Chapter 8 Connecting with Others, Mirroring Difference: The Films of Kathrin Resetarits
      (pp. 122-135)
      Verena Mund

      Kathrin Resetarits is known for working in more than one field. In early 2006 she was named “Shooting Star” at the Berlin Film Festival. In fall 2007 she publishedVögel sind zu Besuch, her first book of prose, by which time her short filmÄgypten/Egypt(1996) had made it into the classics of experimental filmmaking shown in museums and other art venues.¹ While in general her manifold interests (and successes) seem rather unusual, within the recent generation of Austrian filmmakers this is a more common occurrence.

      Two things have been striking about New Austrian Film in recent years. First, the...

    • Chapter 9 Not Politics but People: The “Feminine Aesthetic” of Valeska Grisebach and Jessica Hausner
      (pp. 136-148)
      Catherine Wheatley

      In November 2003, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in New York ran a program of films entitled “Breaking the Rules: New Austrian Cinema,” showcasing what Ed Halter, in his preview of the series, referred to as “some of the finest films of recent years” (Halter 2003). Ten months later, London’s National Film Theatre (NFT) ran a similar program, which included seven of the fourteen works screened at BAM. Given that the NFT season was devoted solely to Austrian women filmmakers, the figures bear out quite literally a comment made by programmer Geoff Andrew: “One of the truly extraordinary aspects...


    • Chapter 10 Allegory in Michael Haneke’s The Seventh Continent
      (pp. 151-165)
      Eva Kuttenberg

      Michael Haneke’s directorial debut,Der siebente Kontinent/The Seventh Continent(1989), premiered in the US in 1990 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in the New Directors/New Films series after garnering attention at Cannes in 1989, remains little known outside the circle of international film scholars and festivals.¹ In Austria, this cinematographic milestone established Haneke as a provocative innovator who set the stage for a new generation of filmmakers, from Barbara Albert to Jessica Hausner,² but US interest was shortlived in spite of positive reviews in major newspapers.³ To date, discussions in the Anglophone world have been limited to peripheral...

    • Chapter 11 “What Goes without Saying”: Michael Haneke’s Confrontation with Myths in Funny Games
      (pp. 166-176)
      Gabriele Wurmitzer

      Anna, Georg, and Schorschi Schober (and their dog), are the protagonist family in both versions of Michael Haneke’sFunny Games(1997 and 2008). They arrive at their remote vacation home on a lake in the countryside, and within an hour of reaching the place their lives are turned upside down by two well-spoken and courteous strangers dressed completely in white, Peter and Paul. Slowly and politely the family members are verbally disarmed, tortured, and killed, one after the other, by the young men. Twelve hours later, having just drowned his last victim, Anna Schober, Paul knocks on the door of...

    • Chapter 12 Unseen/Obscene: The (Non-)Framing of the Sexual Act in Michael Haneke’s La Pianiste
      (pp. 177-188)
      Catherine Wheatley

      In his introduction to a series of articles on the depiction of sex and the sexual act in contemporary cinema,Sight and Soundeditor Nick James touches upon a subject which is gaining increasing attention in academic articles and critical reviews: the appearance of sexually explicit acts and images in aesthetically ambitious films (James 2001: 21). Amongst the films that he lists as examples of this cinematic trend are Breillat’sRomance(1999) andÀ ma soeur!/For my sister(2001), Noé’sSeul Contre Tous/I Stand Alone(1998) andIrréversible/Irreversible(2002), Despentes and Trinh Thi’sBaise Moi/Fuck Me(2001), Chéreau’sIntimacy(2001),...

    • Chapter 13 The Possibility of Desire in a Conformist World: The Cinema of Ulrich Seidl
      (pp. 189-198)
      Mattias Frey

      At the Berlin premiere ofHundstage/Dog Days(2001), Ulrich Seidl prefaced the screening by wishing the audience “a disturbing evening.”¹ Like the films of his compatriot Michael Haneke, with whom he shared the stage that evening, Seidl’s work constitutes a cinema of disturbance and contains a damning critique of Austrian society. Unlike Haneke, however, Seidl finds the disturbing not in extraordinary outbursts of violence or helplessness, but rather in the everyday strangeness all around us, a world he represents formally in blurring and ultimately deconstructing the boundaries between fact and fiction, documentary and feature film. He is seen by many,...

    • Chapter 14 Dog Days: Ulrich Seidl’s Fin-de-siècle Vision
      (pp. 199-206)
      Justin Vicari

      “We’re about to enter the twenty-first century,” says one of the passing characters in Ulrich Seidl’sHundstage/Dog Days(2001). In Seidl’s vision, we can build up the urban landscape to our heart’s content, expand our superhighways and strip malls as far as the eye can see—but we’re still working with the same primitive bodies, hearts, brains, and sex organs that we’ve always had. Underpinning all progress is the chronic latent threat of a return to savagery, not in the form of some sweeping apocalypse but in all those small daily moments when the limitations of the human stand starkly...

    • Chapter 15 Import and Export: Ulrich Seidl’s Indiscreet Anthropology of Migration
      (pp. 207-224)
      Martin Brady and Helen Hughes

      Ulrich Seidl has been described, quite accurately, as a “poet of the wretched” (Poet des Trostlosen; Grissemann 2007: 112). His films constitute an inimitable and instantly recognizable anthology of loneliness, deprivation, voyeurism, and cruelty. Renowned and often reviled for their extreme subject matter—pet fondling (Tierische Liebe/Animal Love, 1995), infantilism (Spaβ ohne Grenzen/Fun Without Limits, 1998), rape (Hundstage/Dog Days, 2001), xenophobia (Zur Lage/State of the Nation, 2002), religious fanaticism (Jesus, Du weisst/Jesus, You Know, 2003), internet sex (Import Export, 2007)—and their inscrutable hyper-stylization—obsessive symmetry and static full-frontal tableaux—his documentaries and fiction films have been the object of...


    • Chapter 16 Crossing Borders in Austrian Cinema at the Turn of the Century: Flicker, Allahyari, Albert
      (pp. 227-241)
      Nikhil Sathe

      Questions of Austrian history and national identity are very much questions of borders: of openings and closings, of inclusion and exclusion, of creation and contestation. In particular, the shifts of post-1989 Europe and Austria’s redefinitions after joining the European Union have positioned borders as a key topic in Austrian political discourse. Similarly, in numerous works since the mid 1990s Austrian filmmakers have contributed to this discourse by making the border perhaps Austrian cinema’s principle site.¹ A frequent setting in art, borders function as a space that by definition creates, yet questions, conceptions of self and other, and that readily signifies...

    • Chapter 17 “The Resentment of One’s Fellow Citizens Intensified into a Strong Sense of Community”: Psychology and Misanthropy in Frosch’s Total Therapy, Flicker’s Hold-Up, and Haneke’s Caché
      (pp. 242-250)
      Andreas Böhn

      Robert Musil’s characterization ofKakania, the Austro-Hungarian Empire as it existed until 1918, in his novelThe Man without Qualities, reflects a basic trait of Austrian culture which can also be recognized in recent Austrian cinema. A remarkable psychological depth and complexity is contrasted by a tendency towards an undermining mistrust of others and oneself, as well as of a rather pessimistic view on the human race in general and neighbors in particular. The peak of Austrian culture in the first decades of the twentieth century abounds with psychological vivisections, be it in narrative or theatrical representations (Schnitzler), in literary...

    • Chapter 18 Trapped Bodies, Roaming Fantasies: Mobilizing Constructions of Place and Identity in Florian Flicker’s Suzie Washington
      (pp. 251-262)
      Gundolf Graml

      When Nana Iaschwili, a teacher of French from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, arrives at the airport in Vienna, Austria, she only expects a brief layover before boarding her connecting flight to Los Angeles, where she wants to visit her uncle. However, the ticket agent discovers that Nana’s passport and visa to the United States have been forged. Nana is arrested, interrogated, and then scheduled for deportation within forty-eight hours. Her request to remain in Austria or to be handed over to a neighboring country is rejected. By chance, Nana is able to escape from the airport and boards...

    • Chapter 19 A Cinephilic Avant-garde: The Films of Peter Tscherkassky, Martin Arnold, and Gustav Deutsch
      (pp. 263-276)
      Erika Balsom

      It is said that film is a dying medium. Proclamations of the “death of cinema” abound, awash in hyperbole but nonetheless containing persistent glimmers of truth. Perhaps the cinema has been dying since its birth: critics have long decried the medium’s death at the hands of sound, television, or video, but it has always persevered, countering its predicted eclipse with a continued relevance. Now, in this age of medium convergence, it is the material substrate of celluloid that is in danger of becoming obsolescent. Even if the cinema as an institution persists, there is no assurance that it will always...


    • Chapter 20 Screening Nazism and Reclaiming the Horror Genre: Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Anatomy Films
      (pp. 279-291)
      Alexandra Ludewig

      In recent years the filmmakers Stefan Ruzowitzky, Robert Schwentke, and Oliver Hirschbiegel have revived the horror genre in German language cinema, and used it to challenge accepted images of Hitler and the excesses of the Nazi era. This reconceptualization and reclamation is particularly intriguing after a lengthy hiatus in Germany and Austria. To date, however, the available literature is yet to fully recognize the true value of the contemporary German variety of the horror genre as a field of research,¹ a genre in which varying portrayals of evil offer the potential to provide information about associated and shared community values,...

    • Chapter 21 Beyond Borders and across Genre Boundaries: Critical Heimat in Stefan Ruzowitzky’s The Inheritors
      (pp. 292-306)
      Rachel Palfreyman

      Stefan Ruzowitzky’s filmDie Siebtelbauern/The Inheritors(1998) might appear not only explicitly, but even exclusively, focused on the German-language cinematic tradition. A criticalHeimatfilmin the tradition of Volker Schlöndorff’sDer plötzliche Reichtum der armen Leute von Kombach/The Sudden Wealth of the Poor People of Kombach(1971) and Peter Fleischmann’sJagdszenen aus Niederbayern/Hunting Scenes from Lower Bavaria(1969) does not instantly suggest broad international ambition, for theHeimatgenre is not an especially well-traveled one. Indeed, the international success of Edgar Reitz notwithstanding, it is generally seen as a quintessentially German/Austrian genre, the product of particular German/Austrian aesthetic and historical...

    • Chapter 22 A Genuine Dilemma: Ruzowitzky’s The Counterfeiters as Moral Experiment
      (pp. 307-319)
      Raymond L. Burt

      When Hollywood’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Stefan Ruzowitzky’s filmDie Fälscher/The Counterfeiters(2007) with the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, one sensed a bit of déjà vu. Here is a film based on historical events in which a small group of Jews in a concentration camp find themselves protected to some measure from the Nazi death machine. They owe their survival to the efforts of a morally ambiguous and unlikely hero, who uses the power of money and his personal skill to protect these few inmates from the surrounding inhumanity and destruction. To some extent...

    • Chapter 23 National Box-office Hits or International “Arthouse”? The New Austrokomödie
      (pp. 320-332)
      Regina Standún

      On 31 December 2006, one of the official websites of the Austrian film industry released the following audience numbers:¹

      Seven out of these ten box-office hits in Austrian cinemas areKabarettfilme(KF), “cabaret films” or Austro-comedies, a genre that seems to have no counterpart in any other European country. It is astounding that Harald Sicheritz’sHinterholz 8(1998), for instance, attracted almost the same number of viewers in Austria as Hollywood blockbusters did. These figures reflect a trend in Austrian filmmaking that has become increasingly visible since the late 1980s and early 1990s, a trend which, in every aspect, is...


    • Chapter 24 Austria Plays Itself and Sees Da Him: Notes on the Image of Austria in the Films of Michael Glawogger
      (pp. 335-342)
      Christoph Huber

      “Shit,” says the young man, “I am myself. When you look into the mirror, you see who you are.” The young man is one of the car drivers who took along Michael Glawogger on his hitchhiking tour of Austria for his episodeDie Reise/The JourneyinZur LageÖsterreich in sechs Kapiteln/State of the NationAustria in Six Chapters(2002), an omnibus effort inspired by the conservative victory in the Austrian elections of 2000. When the film opened in Austria, I wrote that Glawogger’s contribution to the film was overshadowed by Ulrich Seidl’s, and I still think that...

    • Chapter 25 Configurations of the Authentic in Hubert Sauper’s Darwin’s Nightmare
      (pp. 343-355)
      Arno Russegger

      What is a documentary? The images flickering across the screens of security staff in a subway station, or the recordings of a video camera mounted over an automatic teller machine? What about the countless home-video amateur filmmakers—do they come close to approaching the documentary ideal when they capture their children or cats, vacations or misadventures on film or video? Does a faithful cinematic treatment of reality—in accordance, one might say, with the commonplace concept we use to define it—require the submission to a purist concept of reproducing reality or does reality constantly open itself up to several...

    • Chapter 26 The Lady in the Lake: Austria’s Images in Götz Spielmann’s Antares
      (pp. 356-367)
      Sara F. Hall

      In a deceptively straightforward moment of narrative transition in Götz Spielmann’sAntares(2004), a married nurse (Petra Morzé) named Eva has just departed from a hotel-room tryst with her lover, Tomasz (Andreas Patton). In a tight shot, a blue and white train carriage picks up speed and rolls off to the right. As the locomotive moves away, multiple rows of concrete apartment and office buildings become visible in the distance to the left, and an advertising billboard comes into view center screen. On it hangs a photograph of a surrealistically large bikini-clad woman reclining in a crystal clear lake, her...

    • Chapter 27 “Children of Optimism”: An Interview with Götz Spielmann on Revanche and New Austrian Film
      (pp. 368-376)
      Catherine Wheatley and Götz Spielmann

      Götz Spielmann’sRevanche(2008) begins with a static shot of a rural idyll, inverted in the cool, torpid waters of a lake. The peaceful pastoral, bathed in crepuscular sunlight and cast in a warm, autumnal palate, is quite suddenly splintered by the abrupt splash of an object hitting the water, fragmenting the landscape, casting centrifugal ripples over its reflection. As the shot lingers, these ripples expand and dissipate, one by one, until gradually calm is restored; it is as if nothing had ever happened.

      It’s an apt opening for a film which incorporates elements of New Austrian Film’s “feel-bad” aesthetic,...

  10. Select Filmography
    (pp. 377-386)
  11. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 387-392)
  12. Index
    (pp. 393-400)