Die Piefke-Saga (1990, 1993)

Die Piefke-Saga [Piefke is a derogatory term Austrians use for Germans]
Director: Wilfried Dotzel, Werner Masten (Part 4)
Writer: Felix Mitterer
Cast: Dietrich Mattausch, Brigitte Grothum, Ferdinand Dux, Sabine Cruso, Ralf Komorr, Kurt Weinzierl, Veronika Faber, Tobias Moretti, Josef Kuderna, Gregor Bloéb, Hans Richter, Brigitte Jaufenthaler, Doris Goldner, Barbara Weber, Ludwig Dornauer, Peter Kluibenschädel, Sascha Scholl
Seen on: 24.+26.2.2021

Content Note: racism, (critical treatment of) sexism

The Sattmann family from Berlin – father Karl-Friedrich (Dietich Mattausch), mother Else (Brigitte Grothum), grandfather Heinrich (Ferdinand Dux) and the children Sabine (Sabine Cruse) and Gunnar (Ralf Komorr) – have been coming to Tyrol for their holidays for years, always staying in the same hotel run by Franz Wechselberger (Kurt Weinzierl), who also happens to be mayor, and his wife Christel (Veronika Faber). The Wechselbergers know that their village is dependent on the German tourists. But Franz’ brother Hans (Hans Richter) fears what the increasing tourism means for the nature in Tyrol. So he brings his journalist friend Holleschek (Sascha Scholl) to write an article about the German tourists which is less than flattering. The article comes out just as the Sattmanns arrive for their summer holidays – and they will not let that insult stand.

Die Piefke-Saga is a four part miniseries of quite some renoun in Austria. The first three parts were shot together, the fourth part was made three years later and is very different from the first three. But all of them are pretty enjoyable.

The series poster showing the six main characters in the drawing of a suitcase.

The relationship between Austrians and Germans is a rather complex one, at least from Austria’s perspective (I think, Germans don’t think as much about Austrians as vice versa) and the series puts its finger right on the difficulties there – and then starts stirring up troubles. In the end, nobody really gets off well here – neither the Germans who are portrayed as uptight and arrogant, nor the Austrians who are shown to be greedy and opportunistic. It may not be a flattering perspective but it is fun to watch it unfold – at least as an Austrian who is not a Tyrolean.

The thing is, the series is still surprisingly and frustratingly current. I wish I could say that it feels outdated and wrong, but no. 30 years later and the same show could take place today, and nobody would doubt that it would refer to current events.

The entire Sattmann family crowded around their living room table, watching TV.

This is not quite as true for the fourth part where the story takes a sudden turn to the post-apocalyptic and becomes a very strange SciFi tale that has a weird relationship with Japanese people. As I watched it, I kept asking myself how Mitterer must have been when he wrote it. For me, that part didn’t really work – I’d rather stick with the original trilogy.

With the Sattmanns and the Wechselbergers, the Piefke-Saga certainly gives us very memorable characters and not one really likeable, maybe with the exception of Gunnar and Sabine. Maybe. In any case, it is interesting to follow their exploits and I enjoyed watching them, even as it and they often made me cringe.

Joe (Tobias Morreti) showing Sabine (Sabine Cruso) how to milk a cow.

Summarizing: Entertaining.

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