Viennale festival opens with historical drama

The Vienna International Film Festival opens on Thursday, showing new films from around the world, some of them international premieres.

Viennale festival opens with historical drama
A still from Jessica Hausner's Amour Fou. Photo: Stadtkino Filmverleih

The Viennale festival begins with a gala screening of Austrian director Jessica Hausner’s new film Amour Fou, a portrait of the German Romantic writer Heinrich von Kleist and his friend Henriette Vogel, and the steps leading to their 1811 suicide pact.

The festival also features a retrospective of John Ford films, and a tribute to the late German director Harun Farocki.

A special programme has been dedicated to Danish-American actor Viggo Mortensen, who was invited to appear as a guest at the festival but had to cancel. American actor Willem Dafoe (who stars in Abel Ferrara's film Pasolini) was also invited but declined – so the festival will lack star appearances this year. Harry Belafonte, Michael Caine and Will Ferrell have appeared at previous Viennale festivals.

However, over 75 of the 391 films have already sold out, with festival favourites from Cannes and Venice such as Deux Jours, Une Nuit with Marion Cotillard, and Clouds of Sils Maria with Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart proving especially popular. 

German directors Christian Petzold (Phoenix), Thomas Heise (Städtebewohner) and Dominik Graf (Die geliebten Schwestern) will attend and introduce their films, as will American independent filmmakers Debra Granik (Stray Dog) and Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Philip) and the British director and screenwriter Peter Strickland (The Duke of Burgundy and Björk: Biophilia Live).  

Die Presse newspaper writes that Viennale director Hans Hurch is known for his love of “uncomfortable, political, and often marginalized stories", and that this year's programme reflects that. 

Austrian cinema is dominated by its most controversial and influential director Michael Haneke, who is the most internationally successful Austrian filmmaker working today.

Other Austrian directors such as Ulrich Seidl, Markus Schleinzer, Stefan Ruzowitzky and Barbara Albert are also known for their thought-provoking and often dark and disturbing films.

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Music, drama and controversy: What can you expect at the Salzburg Festival?

The annual Salzburger Festspiele - Salzburg Festival - is already hitting the headlines due its Russian connections, but there is more to the event than politics. Here’s what to expect at the 2022 edition of the festival.

Music, drama and controversy: What can you expect at the Salzburg Festival?

As the Salzburg Festival kicks off on Tuesday July 26th with a keynote address by Vienna-based author Ilija Trojanow, all eyes on this year’s theme of war and peace.

The title of Ilija’s speech is Der Ton des Krieges, die Tonarten des Friedens (The Tone of War, the Tonalities of Peace) – something that, according to ORF, has placed the festival “under scrutiny” as the war continues in Ukraine.

The Kronen Zeitung also reports that Trojanow – who fled Bulgaria in 1971 for Germany – is expected to reference Russian funding of the festival and the turbulence of current times.

Trojanow said: “Markus Hinterhäuser [Salzburg Festival Artistic Director] knows me, he knows my work. He knows that he will get a politically dedicated, but also poetic-musical speech from me.”

Meanwhile, a large security operation is underway at Salzburg’s Festspielhause and across the city’s festival sites ahead of a speech by Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen as part of the opening ceremony on Tuesday.

Police Chief Inspector Hans Wolfgruber said: “The maximum level of security will be provided, but there will be minimum restrictions for the people of Salzburg.” 

With the festival programme set to run until August 31st, here’s what you need to know about the 2022 Salzburg Festival.

What is the Salzburg Festival?

The Salzburg Festival is an annual celebration of art and culture in the historic city of Salzburg, in the west of Austria.

It has been described as one of the most important festivals in the world for opera, classical music and drama, and the organisers sell over 200,000 tickets each year.

The event was officially established in August 1920 by Austrian writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal in a bid to promote peace following World War I and to support the creation of a new Austrian identity following the fall of the Habsburg empire.

Today, the festival programme still includes an annual performance of Jedermann, a mystery play written by Hofmannsthal, in honour of the founder.

Anything controversial about this year?

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, many organisations and institutions have come under fire for their associations with Russia – including the Salzburg Festival.

Last week, the festival organisers justified its decision not to cancel a performance by Greek-Russian conductor Teodor Currentzis, who is scheduled to open the festival with his orchestra musicAeterna.

The Guardian reports that musicAeterna is funded by VTB Bank, which is currently under western sanctions and is often referred to as Vladimir Putin’s “private bank”.

Other venues in Munich, Vienna and Paris have already cancelled performances by Currentzis and musicAeterna, but Salzburg Festival Director Hinterhäuser has defended his decision by describing the conductor as a “counter model” to Putin.

In further criticism, the festival is also reportedly receiving funding in the form of sponsorship from a foundation run by oligarch Leonid Mikhelson who has been sanctioned by the UK and Canada, although not the EU.

But Salzburg Festival organisers have severed ties this year with two Russian performers – Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev – over their connections to Putin.

What are the highlights this year?

The opening ceremony will take place in the Felsenreitschule (a theatre) on Tuesday. Attendees will include Austria’s President Alexander van der Bellan, Salzburg’s Governor Wilfried Haslauer, Secretary of State for the Arts Andrea Mayer and Salzburg Festival President Kristina Hammer.

The keynote speech by Trojanow will be broadcast live on ORF 2, which will be followed by a performance by Currentzis and musicAeterna.

Other highlights during the festival include classical music performances by the Vienna Philharmonic, opera productions of Aida and Bluebeard’s Castle, and a youth programme titled Jung & Jede*r.

The full festival programme can be found here.

Performances and events take place at venues across the city, including the Schauspielhaus Salzburg, Kollegienkirche, Dom Platz and the Festspielhaus.

Tickets should be booked in advance and prices range from €5 to €445, although some key events, such as drama performances of Jedermann and Reigen, are already sold out.