You might be under the impression that Austrian films are unrelentingly dark and pessimistic – just take a look at the work of award-winning director Michael Haneke, Ulrich Seidl, and their contemporaries and the themes are pretty sombre – sex tourism, paedophilia, irrational violence, and latent Nazism all crop up.
But it's not all doom and gloom. The Local spoke to Pia Reiser, film critic at FM4 Radio, who gave us her top five non-depressing Austrian films.
“You could also call these five examples that prove that Austria is not just the country of “feel-bad cinema” as the New York Times called it several years ago. Austrian films have been branching out into different genres in the last years. The horror film Goodnight Mommy for example was a huge success among critics.
I think the big problem with Austrian cinema remains that people in Austria are not really interested in Austrian films, mainly I guess because they still suspect that they are all depressing – so many Austrian films are not even given a chance. There was a very lovely and charming love story called Zweisitzrakete that came out some years ago that I am pretty sure would have found its audience if it had been an American indie film. Same thing with the fantastic coming-of-age film Beautiful Girl by Domink Hartl. Two films that are the complete opposite of what most people would expect from a film from Austria – but they will never find out, because they refuse to watch them.
The really depressing thing is not Austrian films, but realising how few people go and see Austrian films. Another point is of course that we don't have any “big stars”. Many people watch films because of a certain actor or actress and Austria has of course several great actors and actresses but no real stars.”
Pia’s five must-see Austrian films:
1. April 2000 (1952)
The World Police and the Global Union arrive in a flying sphere.
A political sci-fi satire and musical commissioned on behalf of the Austrian government with the intention to create a new image for Austria after World War Two. Completely bonkers and therefore worth watching!
2. Muttertag (1992)
Image: Fernsehfilmproduktion Scheiderbauer
To dismiss this as just a cabaret film means you’re completely underestimating this satire. Muttertag is a great farce and essential for an understanding of Vienna. It turns into a kind of Rocky Horror Picture Show, set in a block of council flats.
3. Tempo (1996)
I haven’t seen this since it came out but I remember how exciting it was to see that Stefan Ruzowitzky’s 'rave film' (yes, that was kind of a genre back then) Tempo was nothing like the rest of Austrian cinema at that time. A fast-edited story about love and drugs with a soundtrack by Kruder & Dorfmeister. The (Austrian) ‘90s in a nutshell.
4. Das finstere Tal (2014)
The Austrian film goes Western. A lone rider, a secluded 19th-century village, a story about revenge.
5. Was hat uns bloß so ruiniert (2016)
Wonderful, non-cynical observations about what happens when hipsters have babies.