No Fair(er) Land: Views into the countryside, views from the countryside

Schöne Tage © ORF/Pichlkostner

As a film nation, Austria often appears above all as one thing: a singular cinema state – Vienna. Here is where the majority of the film branch has its headquarters, and where the two central motion picture archives are located, where arthouse cinemas as well as funding institutions are based, and where public broadcasting’s primary location has its home. The nation’s capital is thus, for good reason, also the subject and location of a majority of Austrian film production.

In this year’s historical special, the capital will take a step back. The Austrian Film Museum, Filmarchiv Austria, and ORF-Archive join together in taking a look at the countryside, from different viewpoints, in search of perspectives on the so-called countryside, and from it.

The program clusters from the Austrian Film MuseumFilmarchiv AustriaORF-Archive, and “steirischer herbst” 2017 make clear that the relationship of Austrian film to the countryside and provincialism as an ideology remains ambivalent, yet always present. A curiosity characterized by fascination and a nearly magical appeal, from which Austrian film also does not seem to have escaped – the rural subjects, from iconic village discos to outdoor dining on the shores of the Salzkammergut lakes to Alpine panoramas, are too attractive as either backdrop or contrast. In a day and age when the insignia of provincialism is increasingly positioned in opposition to a global spirit and urbanity, it seems worthwhile to have a look at the countryside through the lens of Austrian film, and vice versa. The Diagonale’s historical special offers just such an opportunity.


Filmarchiv Austria
Program #1: That’s the Magic of the Season
Peter Alexander, Roy Black and, the yearning for an idyllic world

The city first becomes a city by virtue of the countryside – and the other way around. At least that’s the ideology. The urban space first becomes a perverted Moloch, a site of anonymity, through the beauty of the mountains constructed in the Heimatfilm with its sentimentalized and idyllic rural setting. The Filmarchiv Austria encounters this heavily romanticized image of an idyllic world with its program curated by Florian Widegger on “tourism films” in Austria, a genre that became established after World War II – sugarcoated cinema as vignette of the new Austria. Gathered under the title “That is the Magic of the Season”, are works from 1948 to 1971, for example, Werner Jacob’s Im weißen Rössl (AT/DE 1960), a cult film that not only marks a peak of post-war film production, but also like many other works from this era, shifts the hotel as a site of desire and topos to the center of Austrian filmography. Im weißen Rössl, a prime example of the escapist, idyllic world of the 1950s and 1960s, has since traumatized generations (as one hears) on the television and marks a culmination and transition from Heimatfilm to pop film, long before the new Austrian cinema called for critical perspectives. A program, which with a deliberate re-reading attempts to question what is seemingly well-known and frequently seen, and expose its harmlessness as something quite the contrary.

Also being shown as part of the program are Perfekt in allen Stellungen (AT 1971) by Frits Fronz, Rendezvous im Salzkammergut (AT 1948) by Alfred Stöger, and Wer zuletzt lacht, lacht am besten (DE 1971) by Harald Reinl.


Austrian Film Museum
Program #2: “The Countryside, Energized”
Crime and Punishment in Strawberry Land

Juxtaposing that is the program compiled by Alejandro Bachmann of the Austrian Film Museum, which brings together rediscoveries, rare screenings, and private amateur films in a program that is well-worth seeing: the excess of the city emphasizes the countryside’s remoteness and lack of worldliness. Rural exodus meets urban obsession, rural obsession with urban exodus: Austria’s hinterland as cultural motif, as pivotal and key point, and source of friction. Under the title “The Countryside, Energized,” The Austrian Film Museum turns to post-1968 provincial tropes and gathers a variety of rarely screened films along recurring rhetorical figures: “Young and Old”, “Boys and Girls”, “Crime and Punishment”, and “Big and Small”. The films provide orientation in understanding the post-1968 cinematic approach to the countryside and what constellations, conflicts, and motifs shaped the films. Screening, among others, are Fritz Lehner’s Schöne Tage (AT 1981), Egon Humer’s Postadresse: 2640 Schlöglmühl (AT 1990), and Angela Summereder’s Zechmeister (AT 1981). Stefanie Zingl has curated a series of amateur films that supplement the picture of the countryside with private views as a prelude to the four points in the program.

The countryside is depicted in a particular way from the view of teenagers: as a boring, backward place to live, which is too narrow, too small, not modern enough, and in need of overcoming. Suitably, combined in one program are Jessica Hausner’s Lovely Rita (AT/DE 2001), a film in which it is possible to observe how the provincial mood around the young woman Rita ultimately cathartically discharges, and Florian Pochlatko’s short feature Erdbeerland (AT 2012), which traces a paradigmatic life of a teenage boy. In the work, which was honored with the Diagonale Short Feature Film Prize in 2013, the countryside is hardly visible since it plays no role for the protagonist and must be erased so that he can make himself believe that he is somewhere else.


Program #3: Pearls from the ORF-Archive
The Downfall of the Alps: Synthie-Sound, village disco, and Lederhosen

Finally, the ORF-Archive is screening three found works of television art from the series Impulse and Metternichgasse 12, which granted ample room to experimental cinematic formats in the 1970s: the first program is devoted to two exceptional talents in Austrian music, the jazz musician and composer Werner Pirchner and the avant-ardist Dieter Feichtner, who in their early years first had to confront the challenge of being heard against the resistance of their immediate local, conservative environments. Available for viewing are Vom Zuckerl, der Prinzessin und der absahnenden Creme (D: Werner Pirchner, AT 1975), the portrait of Dieter Feichtner, Feichtelmannsbilder. Schießen Sie auf Feichtner? Portrait eines Musikers (D: Franz Paul Ebner, AT 1980), and the Tyrolean satire Der Untergang des Alpenlandes (D: Werner Pirchner, Christian Berger, AT 1974). The program was created in close collaboration with Camillo Foramitti.

Jugendliebe – Wem Gott schenkt ein Häschen (AT 1983), the pilot for a series by Lukas Stepanik with impressive emancipatory moments, once again turns to look at not very carefree sequences of growing up in the Austrian countryside of the early 1980s: Catholicism, holidays in Italy, first love, pregnancy, village disco, migration, and crumbling world pictures.


“Die Kinder der Toten”

After two years of preparation and twenty-eight days of shooting in the context of the “steirischer herbst” 2017, the Diagonale is offering a first look into what is actually an impossible project by the Nature Theater of Oklahoma: the cinematic adaptation of Elfriede Jelinek’s monumental novel “Die Kinder der Toten”, filmed with amateur actors in the upper Styrian towns of the Nobel Prize winner’s childhood, captured on 666 roles of Super-8 film.

Supplementing the making-of and the first video interview with Elfriede Jelinek since the awarding of the Literature Nobel Prize in 2004, the Diagonale will show an exhibition with set photos by Ditz Fejer at Feinkost Mild beginning March 9. Additionally, those involved in the film project will report on its current state in the context of “Diagonale in Dialog”.

Film program & talk Die Kinder der Toten
Die Untoten von Neuberg (D: Ulrich A. Reiterer, AT 2018), making-of-film
— Extensive talk in the context of “Diagonale in Dialogue”: Veronica Kaup-Hasler, Michael Palm, Claus Philipp, and Ulrich A. Reiterer offer first insights into the project and its spectacular filming in conversation with Alexander Horwath.
Die Steiermark hasse ich am allerwenigsten – Gespräch mit Elfriede Jelinek (D: Veronica Kaup-Hasler, Claus Philipp, Ulrich A. Reiterer, AT 2018), video interview
——— Date: Saturday, March 17, 2018, 3 p.m., Schubertkino 1

Exhibition at Feinkost Mild
— Set photos by Ditz Fejer
——— Opening: Friday, March 9, 2018, 7 p.m., Feinkost Mild

Whereas Die Untoten von Neuberg documents the filming of the mammoth project and the cooperation with the local population, in Die Steiermark hasse ich am allerwenigsten, Jelinek talks about her relationship to the state where she grew up. Between the two screenings, the former director of the Austrian Film Museum, Alexander Horwath, will speak with those responsible for the project, Veronica Kaup-Hasler (former curator of the “steirischer herbst”) and Claus Philipp as well as with Michael Palm, who is currently working on the editing of the film together with the Nature Theater of Oklahoma, and Ulrich A. Reiterer, who as director, is responsible for the filmic documentation of the project, among other things.

An exhibition by the Styrian photographer Ditz Fejer, beginning March 9, offers insight into the extraordinary film project, and documents a region in a state of emergency.

The work on the work-in-progress Die Kinder der Toten will be presented in the context of the Diagonale Special No Fair(er) Land. As a magnifying glass on different perspectives, the program series leaves Austria’s capital behind. The Austrian Film Museum (“The Countryside, Energized”), the Filmarchiv Austria (“That’s the Magic of the Season”), the ORF-Archive (“The Downfall of the Alps”), and also the supplemental special from the “steirischer herbst” 2017 cast a glance into the countryside and trace looks out from the countryside.



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