What’s “Hot”? Austrian Cinema, Apparently

Todd Herzog, Professor of German Studies at the University of Cincinnati, wrote a very positive review of the book New Austrian Film, edited by Robert von Dassanowsky and Oliver Speck, and published by Berghahn Publishers in 2011. (Full disclosure: I do have an article in this volume on Florian Flicker’s 1998 film Suzie Washington.)

Herzog writes:

In this excellent collection of essays on recent Austrian cinema – the first to attempt to define this body of films as a coherent whole – the editors Robert von Dassanowsky and Oliver C. Speck settle upon the term New Austrian Film. They have assembled an impressive team of scholars with diverse backgrounds, interests and perspectives to offer 27 chapters analysing various aspects of Austrian cinema at the turn of the 21st century.

The picture of New Austrian Film that emerges from these studies is of a cinema that differs from traditional avant-gardes in that it does not rebel against a dominant national cinema or engage directly in a dialogue with Hollywood traditions. Nor does it emerge from a particular political movement, although the political turmoil of post-Waldheim Austria is clearly evident in these films. This is a cinema that exists to provoke its audience and challenge cinematic and cultural traditions. Stylistically, it is marked by a kind of neo-neo-realism that favours authentic locations (usually somewhere on the outskirts of Vienna), less prominent (or even non-professional) actors, and uneventful storylines. Its favorite form is the episodic narrative that intertwines several stories involving characters who are interconnected in ways that even they typically don’t recognise. Although the tag “feel-bad cinema” is reductive, this is indeed a cinema that is more interested in detailing crises of fundamental social institutions such as marriage, family, education and consumer culture than in reaffirming the strength of such institutions. But these works differ from recent “miserablist” films by directors such as Lynne Ramsay and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Whereas their films do seem to try to make their viewers feel bad, New Austrian Film rarely seems to want to make its audience feel anything. These films are commonly cold, contemplative, distanced and critical. They’re often tough to watch – with moments of shocking violence, depressing subject matter, graphic sexuality and excruciatingly protracted abuse – but rarely do they wish to provoke strong emotional reactions in their viewers. Neither the sex –nor, for that matter, the violence – is titillating. The audience is kept too much at a distance to be drawn into the film. It is in this odd combination of provocative material and contemplative presentation that New Austrian Film finds its power and its particular place in film history.

For the entire review click here or on the pic:

DVD Cover of Florian Flicker’s “Suzie Washington” (1998)

To find out more about the book, click here.


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