Die Gstettensaga: The Rise of Echsenfriedl [Gstetten is a meadow, only with less nice connotations; Echsenfriedl roughly translates to “Lizard-Friedl”, Friedl being a name]
Director: Johannes Grenzfurthner
Writer: Johannes Grenzfurthner, Roland Gratzer
Cast: Stuart Freeman, Sophia Grabner, Lukas Tagwerker, Martin Auer
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
[Review by cornholio.]
The Google Wars – a war between the two superpowers China and Google – left the world in ruin. In the Megacity Schwechat – most of what remains of Austria – media mogul Thurnher von Pjölk (Martin Auer) sends journalist Fratt (Lukas Tagwerker) and technician Alalia (Sophia Grabner) to find the infamous revolutionary Echsenfriedl who has a huge fanbase among the nerdy population. But in the new and very dangerous way the world works now, that is a task easier said than done.
There were a lot of great ideas in the Gstettensaga but there was a little too much going on. The constant bombardment of crazy ideas got tiring instead of entertaining real quick and I quickly began to wish that the film was 20 minutes instead of 70.
Many details in the Gstettensaga can probably only be understood if you’re very familiar with Austria. It starts with the hilarity of Megacity Schwechat continues on to the fact that Niederösterreich (Lower Austria) became Niederpröll (Lower *name of the current governor of that area*), the fact that the postal service becomes a paramilitary organization and that people speak “Reformed Styrian”, which is a language that has practically nothing to do with German anymore. Plus, as it turns out, Echsenfriedl is a Basilisk in its Austrian/German incarnation.
I absolutely loved that local connection. We generally get very little local movies and books, and even less when they’re SFF, that actually feel like they’re rooted in Austrian tradition, so that was cool in and of itself. And to have it shown with a wicked sense of humor helps a lot, too (Grenzfurthner introduced the film to us and he said that their budget was rather low, so they tried to raise more funds any way possible and one of those ways was to show a piracy warning – that the copy of the film was only for screening purposes and if you saw it anywhere else, please call this toll number – in the middle of the film and actually raised about 300 Euros when the movies was shown on TV).
But there was too little story for too many ideas. You didn’t care about the characters or their quest. The acting was mediocre. And the absurdity of it all became really, really exhausting. I would have wished for a little more narrative substance to keep the film going instead of this wild romp through various ideas, especially because there is substance to the content – I just couldn’t appreciate that part because I was too tired from the jolting of the wild ride this film put me through.
Even though the film really isn’t long, it felt practically endless. Maybe it would have been better served if it had been a short film, or even a series of short films exploring the world that was created. Sometimes less is more after all.