Category Archives: Austrian

The Inheritors (1998)

 “A poor wretch has a hard life everywhere.”

The Inheritors is set in Austria before WWII. Hillinger, an unpleasant old farmer is found murdered. At the reading of the will, held in a local tavern, the village gathers to hear the division of the spoils. Everyone is shocked to learn that the farmer has left his property to the ten peasants who work the land. The peasants are a hodgepodge crew managed by a foreman (Tilo Pruckner). Local landowner, Danninger (Ulrich Wildgruber) approaches the foreman and offers to buy the land. Seven of the peasants–headed by Lukas (Simon Schwarz)–refuse to sell and decide to stay and farm the land themselves.

inheritorsWhile the film is essentially dark and bleak, there are light moments (the insults written in the will, for example) that alleviate the sense of hopelessness and encroaching doom. There are also moments of absurdity (the elephant) that may or may not appeal to the viewer. The story also involves a predictable subplot. Clearly the film is an allegory–with the innocent and the powerless attempting to fight political institutions. Ultimately, the film is rather painful to watch, and the suffering spread across the screen diminishes the film’s Marxist message. A film with a political message must leave the viewer with something other than depression at its conclusion. From director Stefan Ruzowitzky, in German with English subtitles.

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Antares (2004)

“But you have to come to grips with yourself.”

The Austrian film Antares explores three tangled domestic relationships. The stories unfold separately, but all three couples live in the same high rise building in Vienna. As neighbours, they know one another by sight, and each of the stories interlock at crucial moments.

Directed by Gotz Spielman, Antares is an engaging, adult glimpse–often with stark reality–at three different, and difficult modern relationships. The first couple–nurse Eva (Petra Morze) and her husband are locked in a listless marriage that may or may not be helped by the fact she works the night shift. Her schedule allows her to indulge in a very physical affair with visiting physician Tomasz (Andreas Patton). With full frontal shots and a little bondage, this couple doesn’t have much time for words, and can barely gulp down a glass of wine. Meanwhile, Eva’s hubbie is blissfully unaware of the affair. One of the film’s best scenes occurs when Eva returns glowing and satiated from a recent tryst, and her hubbie turns up the classical music while they eat, noting, “that’s real passion.”

Meanwhile unpleasant, insecure and jealous supermarket checker Sonja (Susanne Wuest) has managed to convince her boyfriend Marco (Dennis Cubic) that she’s pregnant. This announcement brings on the offer of marriage, and Sonja mistakenly believes that this deceit will effectively seal Marco to her. She brushes off the skepticism of an older workmate by stating that she’ll just work out the details later.

Nicole (Martina Zinner) and her very unpleasant, insufferable spouse Alex (Andreas Kiendl) are the third couple. Although they are separated, he refuses to get out of her life (mainly because no one else will put up with him), and he barrages back into her flat announcing that he’s changed. He hasn’t–of course–he’s still a petty bully with violent tendencies, and Nicole makes the mistake of trying to appease him.

Spielman’s deft direction and his very clever interlocking moments make for an excellently made film that permits an intimate glimpse into his characters’ lives. The alienated characters are mostly an unpleasant lot, and this may put some viewers off the film. That said, the film makes some bold statements about why some people remain in relationships–even when alienation and boredom have set in, and unrealistic expectations and demands have worn a tired path through any hope these characters had of marital bliss. In German with English subtitles.

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