Die Erben [The Inheritors] (1983)

Die Erben
Director: Walter Bannert
Writer: Walter Bannert, Erich A. Richter
Cast: Nikolas Vogel, Roger Schauer, Wolfgang Gasser, Anneliese Stöckl-Eberhard, Jaromír Borek, John Ottwald, Helmut KahnEdd Stavjanik
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 31.10.2015

Thomas (Nikolas Vogel) comes from a rich but cold family. When he meets Charly (Roger Schauer) who comes from the opposite end of the social spectrum but is no closer to his own family, Thomas quickly feels kinship mixed with adoration for Charly’s loud brashness. When Charly brings Thomas to a youth center run by an extremely right-wing party, they both become more and more entangled in the party and their ideology.

Die Erben might be a little long but it’s – still, unfortunately – unbelievably current. It’s not perfect, but it’s an interesting look at how (right-wing) recruiting and radicalization works.


There is more than one explanation of how nazi ideologies resurface again and again. There are the cases where its just passed on within a family structure, but there are also the cases where (young) people are recruited into the party, often capitalizing on their sense of estrangement, exclusion and forced aimlessness. It’s on the latter that Die Erben focuses, dissecting precisely how the ersatz grandfathers within the party latch on to the young men and exploit every weakness.

Even though Die Erben makes it clear that these weaknesses are not a question of class – both Thomas and Charly fall prey to the tactics – they did feel a little one-sided in their arguments. Not everyone who feels drawn to nazi ideology comes from a poisoned family background. It is not only estrangement that pushes people subscribe to this glorification of violence. It would have been nice to get some more diversity here.

dieerben1But other things are eerily accurate still, even though the film is over 30 years old: for example the separation of the party into the “legitimate part” that would gladly stomp all over everyone they deem unworthy but hold back so that they can retain enough credibility for mainstream politics; and into the part that carries out actual violent acts. The ideology behind both is the same and the legitimate part doesn’t actual renounce the second half, but the partition makes political sense. Nothing has changed about that.

Unfortunately where the film falls flat is in its treatment of women. Not only is there barely a woman who gets anything to say (apart from Thomas’ mother who gets to nag so much she almost ends up as a caricature of herself), the film is also pretty rape-y and I’m unsure whether it is aware of just how much. It starts with Charly hitting on a girl in the youth center by beating up her boyfriend, leading her to a spare room where she stands stockstill and doesn’t say a word, undressing and fucking her. As the scene is shot, I didn’t get the feeling that they wanted to tell us that Charly is raping this girl, but there really isn’t any meaningful consent here. Had they made this clearer, together with the ending, it would have made the nice point that while right-wingers may talk a big game about protecting women, they have no problem (ab)using them themselves. But as it stands right now it feels a little self-sabotaging: not only do the people in it not give a damn about women, neither does the film itself.

For the most part though, Die Erben manages to impart a sense of disgust with the tactics and ideologies espoused by its characters – and rightly so.

dieerben2Summarizing: Very much worth seeing.

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