Planet Ottakring [Note: Ottakring is one of the poorer districts in Vienna with a rather high immigrant population.]
Director: Michael Riebl
Writer: Mike Majzen
Cast: Michael Steinocher, Cornelia Gröschel, Sebastian Wendelin, Serkan Kaya, Sandra Cervik, Maddalena Hirschal, Susi Stach, Lukas Resetarits, Erika Deutinger, Christopher Schärf
Seen on: 19.8.2015
After the death of his mentor Disko, who pretty much ran Ottakring, Sammy (Michael Steinocher) has to find Disko’s business papers. Otherwise Frau Jahn (Susi Stach) is threatening to take over Ottakring entirely with her loan shark business. At the same time German economics student Valerie (Cornelia Gröschel) comes to Vienna to write a paper on the economic and social structure of Ottakring. Valerie soon runs into Sammy and despite initial antagonism between the both of them, they realize that they might have more in common than they think.
Austrian movies usually shine with their bleak take on social realism. Quite contrary to that, Planet Ottakring was a sweet film that wins you over with its idealistic vision of how the world could be and its easy romance.
While having an Austrian RomCom is somewhat revolutionary, Planet Ottakring is not necessarily a revolutionary RomCom. The characters are not exactly cliché-free, the plot is certainly predictable and we’ve all seen this kind of “lovers from two different (social) worlds” scenario countless times. What does make Planet Ottakring special, though, is its economic ambition. It’s not content with just making two very different people fall in love. Taking the “Wonder of Wörgl” (link is in German, the gist: in 1932 in the middle of the great depression, the mayor of Wörgl managed to get out of the depression by using Freigeld) as inspiration, Sammy and Valerie revolutionize the local economy in Ottakring to everyone’s benefit (except greedy capitalist Frau Jahn).
The more cynically inclined viewer will probably doubt the realism of such a scheme (though, personally, I don’t think that pessimism and cynismism is necessarily more realistic than optimism and idealism), but since the movie has its heart in the right place and tells its story with so much positive and sweet energy, even the biggest cynic will probably have to smile while watching it.
The film was shot about a minute from my workplace. Incidentally the Yppenplatz is probably the most gentrified area of Ottakring, which made having this kind of gangster story play out there a little curious. But it did amuse me with its absurdity of sex workers and heroine dealers (and a bus stop) where none are in reality. But I couldn’t really be angry with them about that misrepresentation.
The only thing that I really didn’t like was the way they handled Frau Jahn’s sexuality: it appears that Frau Jahn is a domina (which is perfectly fine, don’t get me wrong, although the regular conflation of BDSM and evil in films is rather tiring). But as the film progresses it appears more and more that her sub is not all that willing, making the entire thing an abusive relationship that is exoticized and made light of, but never actually acknowledged for what it is.
But despite that there was enough there that I simply enjoyed that I had a whole lot of fun, despite the lack of subtlety permeating the film.