The two councillors - depicted in the film singing in a basement with three musician friends under a portrait of Adolf Hitler, surrounded by swastikas and SS flags - have resigned since the film premiered last week but according to the online news website BVZ they claimed to have been extras, who were “paid by the filmmaker”.
They said that Seidl had directed the scenes and selected the props and furnishings himself. The men added that they distanced themselves “from Nazi ideas and had never had anything to do with such atrocities”.
Seidl told the Austrian Press Agency that he understood the two men “were trying to save their skin” but said that the basement - filled with Nazi memorabilia - belonged to one of the five protagonists, and had been used by him, friends and other villagers “hundreds of times”. Seidl also claimed that local police knew about the basement.
He said that he didn’t believe that the men were Nazis but that they were more likely “nostalgic for the Hitler era”, and that this was not rare in some Austrian villages.
He said the two men had been giving an “allowance” for participating in the film, which he said was customary when shooting a film, even a documentary - but that it was not a salary. He added that the two men hadn’t even seen the film yet and were just reacting to what had been written by journalists.
Extract from In The Basement by Ulrich Seidl