Wiener Blut [Vienna Blood] (1942)

Wiener Blut
Director: Willi Forst
Writer: Axel Eggebrecht, Willi Forst, Ernst Marischka, Hubert Marischka
Based on: Victor Léon and Leo Stein‘s operetta
Cast: Willy Fritsch, Maria Holst, Hans Moser, Theo Lingen, Dorit Kreysler, Fred Liewehr, Hedwig Bleibtreu, Klaramaria Skala, Paul Henckels, Ernst Fritz Fürbringer, Egon von Jordan, Fritz Imhoff
Seen on: 28.2.2021

Countess Melanie (Maria Holst) and Count Georg von Wolkersheim (Willy Fritsch) have not been married very long, but are very happy with each other. Melanie is excited because they are about to arrive in her hometown Vienna for the first time since they got married. Georg has to attend the Congress of Vienna and Melanie can’t wait to dance again at Vienna’s lavish balls. But they quickly realize that Georg just wants to work and expects Melanie to have no fun either. This causes a rift in their marriage that they may not be able to repair.

Wiener Blut concluded the Willi Forst retrospective at the Filmarchiv and it’s probably the distillation of the films he is known for. But I thought that compared to some of his other films, Wiener Blut is just okay and not the best thing he ever made.

The film poster showing Melanie (Maria Holst) with Crown-Prince Ludwig von Bayern (Fred Liewehr).

The most interesting thing for me about Wiener Blut was the aggressive projection of an Austrian image that is clearly distinct from the German image: Austrians are musically obsessed, always dancing hedonists, while Germans are humorless, stiff workaholics. Those stereotypes still persist today (even though we rarely see them in the purity that is achieved here). The striking thing about this is not the stereotypes themselves, but the fact that such an emphasis is put on the difference between the two cultures, given that this was made in 1942 when Austria didn’t even exist but was part of Hitler’s Germany. Yes, in the end, the two cultures do find together in this film as well, but in a space in the middle, leaning heavily towards Austrian identity.

Given the time and circumstances, this kind of nationalistic approach is interesting, but from today’s perspective, it was a little annoying, I have to say. Especially since it was mixed frankly questionable gender politics and a weird view of marriage. Georg cheats on Melanie and this is seen as the same level of badness as Melanie flirting with Ludwig (Fred Liewehr) to get Georg interested in her again. And ultimately, his cheating is seen as a good thing because it teaches Georg the Viennese levity.

Melanie (Maria Holst) and Graf Wolkersheim (Willy Fritsch) at a ball.

The film is lavishly made, there is no doubt about it. And I quite enjoyed the characters – especially Liesl (Dorit Kreysler) and Ludwig who are excellent supporting characters, and the two footmen Jean (Theo Lingen) and Knöpfel (Hans Moser) who are the actual stars of the film. And the music is pretty great – I still have the Wiener Blut waltz in my head at regular intervalls two weeks after seeing the film.

I would say that Wiener Blut is worth seeing, but if you only have time for one Forst film, I’d recommend Maskerade first.

Jean (Theo Lingen) and Knöpfel (Hans Moser) singing in a pub.

Summarizing: a classic.

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