Rubikon (2022)

Rubikon
Director: Magdalena Lauritsch
Writer: Magdalena Lauritsch, Jessica Lind, Elisabeth Schmied
Cast: Julia Franz Richter, George Blagden, Mark Ivanir
Seen on: 16.9.2022

Plot:
Hannah (Julia Franz Richter) and Gavin (Georve Blagden) are sent to the Rubikon, a space station floating above earth and home of the algae experiments of Dimitri Krylow (Mark Ivanir) – humanity’s hope to regain control of the air and the climate down on Earth. Hannah and Gavin are replacing some other crew members, but there is more to their reasons for coming to Rubikon. Shortly after they arrive though, something happens on Earth. Communication is lost and a fog covers more and more of the planet.

I was pretty excited for Rubikon: Austrian Science Fiction, made by a woman no less, and judging from the trailer it looked really good. And all of these things are definitely true, but I found the script a little underwhelming, leaving me not quite as excited about the film going out as I was going in.

The film poster showing Hannah (Julia Franz Richter) wearing a space suit. The Earth is reflected in her visor, with a red fog covering a lot of it.
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Sonne [Sun] (2022)

Sonne
Director: Kurdwin Ayub
Writer: Kurdwin Ayub
Cast: Melina Benli, Law Wallner, Maya Wopienka, Thomas Momcinovic, Marlene Hauser, Lia Wilfing, Margarete Tiesel
Seen on: 13.9.2022

Plot:
Yesmin (Melina Benli), Bella (Law Wallner) and Nati (Maya Wopienka) are best friends. On a bored afternoon, they shoot a music video to Losing My Religion using the hijabs of Yesmin’s mother. The video goes a bit viral, and the three girls rise to celebrity in the local muslim community, asked to perform at various events. But Yesmin – the only one of them who actually wears a hijab – grows increasingly uncomfortable with the situation and her friends’ behavior.

Sonne is Ayub’s fictional debut and proves her great talent. The film is creative and funny, but also serious and insightful about the situation of diasporic Kurds, especially young women. I was really impressed by it.

The film poster showing Yesmin (Melina Benli), Bella (Law Wallner) and Nati (Maya Wopienka) singing.
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Who Are We? (2022)

Who Are We?
Director: Jirka Cerny
Writer: Jirka Cerny, Stefan Radakovic
Cast: Felix Maria Berger, Patrick Isopp, Victor Ramos, Alexander Diwiak, Saskia Norman
Part of: Transition International Queer Minority Film Festival
Seen on: 26.8.2022

Plot:
David (Felix Maria Berger) and Chris (Patrick Isopp) have just returned from their holiday together. But even in that relaxed mode, a certain spark seems to be missing from their relationship. Chris wants to try having a threesome, hoping that it will bring some excitement back for them. David is a bit more hesitant, but agrees in the end. With the help of a dating app, they find Lukas (Victor Ramos), but inviting him into their relationship may have unexpected ramifications.

Who Are We? is an indpendent, queer, Austrian film by young filmmakers. For that alone I wanted to love it. But they did make things a little difficult for me.

The film poster showing Chris (Patrick Isopp) and Lukas (Victor Ramos) leaning in for a kiss.
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Corsage (2022)

Corsage
Director: Marie Kreutzer
Writer: Marie Kreutzer
Cast: Vicky Krieps, Katharina Lorenz, Jeanne Werner, Florian Teichtmeister, Manuel Rubey, Aaron Friesz, Colin Morgan, Finnegan Oldfield, Alexander Pschill, Raphael von Bargen
Seen on: 2.7.2022

Plot:
It’s 1877. Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Vicky Krieps) is renowned everywhere for her beauty, but she is getting older and maintaining her public image becomes more and more difficult. And Elisabeth is less and less willing to comply, trying to find a new way to live her life that doesn’t feel like constantly sitting in a cage.

Corsage is a well-made, engaging film that takes apart the mythology of “Sissi” to discover who Elisabeth may have been. It’s an ambitious project that does justice to these ambitions.

The film poster showing Empress Elisabeth (Vicky Krieps) wearing a black dress, a crown floating above her head.
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Luzifer (2021)

Luzifer
Director: Peter Brunner
Writer: Peter Brunner
Cast: Susanne Jensen, Franz Rogowski, Monika Hinterhuber, Theo Blaickner
Seen on: 26.4.2022

Content Note: ableism/cripping up, abuse

Plot:
Maria (Susanne Jensen) lives off the grid in the mountains with her son Johannes (Franz Rogowski) who has a learning disability. They spend their days mostly quietly and calmly with a lot of prayer and Johannes’ birds of prey. But their idyllic existence is threatened when plans are made to create a skiing area around them – and the developers are desperate to buy their land, unwilling to accept that Maria won’t sell. An evil is coming for Maria and Johannes.

My history with Peter Brunner movies isn’t without its issues, but I have liked his films increasingly more – and Luzifer is probably the one I liked the most so far. It doesn’t always work, but it is definitely engaging.

The film poster showing Maria (Susanne Jensen) sitting on Johannes' (Franz Rogowski) shoulders. Both have their arms spread wide. Behind them is a mountain.
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Rimini (2022)

Rimini
Director: Ulrich Seidl
Writer: Veronika Franz, Ulrich Seidl
Cast: Michael Thomas, Tessa Göttlicher, Hans-Michael Rehberg, Inge Maux, Claudia Martini, Georg Friedrich
Seen on: 23.4.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, fascism

Plot:
Richie Bravo (Michael Thomas) is a “schlager” singer whose heyday has long been over. He lives in Rimini now where he barely gets by with performances for busloads of German-speaking tourists, the occasional sex work and renting out his house to fans while he himself goes to stay in a shabby room in one of the many hotels that are empty for winter. When his estranged daughter Tessa (Tessa Göttlicher) shows up to demand money from him, Richie needs all his (more or less sleazy) survival skills to comply with her request.

Rimini is a typical Seidl movie in a way, but there is an almost optimistic note at the end of the film that is rather untypical. In any case, it’s the portrait of a sleazy man that spares nothing, as it is the portrait of a tourist town without tourists.

The film poster showing Richie Bravo (Michael Thomas) performing on an empty stage in front of a glitter curtain.
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Große Freiheit [Great Freedom] (2021)

Große Freiheit
Director: Sebastian Meise
Writer: Sebastian Meise, Thomas Reider
Cast: Franz Rogowski, Georg Friedrich, Anton von Lucke, Thomas Prenn
Seen on: 19.12.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

Plot:
It’s the 60s and Hans (Franz Rogowski) is once more arrested and imprisoned for “sexual deviancy”, for having sex with other men. It’s not the first time, and back in prison, he quickly settles into the routine when he sees two familiar faces. One is Leo (Anton von Lucke), one of the men Hans had sex with, a young teacher utterly lost in prison life. The other is Viktor (Georg Friedrich) with whom Hans shares a long history, and a connection that runs deep – and becomes deeper still.

Große Freiheit is a sensitive film with great performances about a horrific part of (German) legal history. And it’s also a beautiful love story.

The film poster showing Hans (Franz Rogowski) desperately holding on to Viktor (Georg Friedrich).
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Eva-Maria (2021)

Eva-Maria
Director: Lukas Ladner
Writer: Lukas Ladner
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 10.12.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) ableism

“Plot”:
Eva-Maria is spastic and so has been using a wheelchair for pretty much all of her life. Now she is in her 30s, works as an assistant, and she would like to have a child. That she doesn’t have a partner doesn’t keep her from seeking fertility treatment and attempting to have a child on her own. That’s easier said than done, though.

Eva-Maria is a nice documentary that follows its protagonist over quite a long time, making it a very personal portrait that could have touched on systemic issues a little more. But either way, it shows us what it can mean to be a disabled parent, and that is something we need to see more of, I think.

The film poster showing a drawing of a pregnant woman in an electric wheel chair.
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Kaviar [Caviar] (2019)

Kaviar
Director: Elena Tikhonova
Writer: Robert Buchschwenter, Elena Tikhonova
Cast: Margarita Breitkreiz, Darya Nosik, Sabrina Reiter, Georg Friedrich, Simon Schwarz, Mikhail Evlanov, Joseph Lorenz, Robert Finster
Seen on: 20.10.2021 (somehow missed to review this one)

Plot:
Nadja (Margarita Breitkreiz) works as the personal translator and all around organizer for Igor (Mikhail Evlanov), giving her in-depth knowledge of his dealings, little of which is actually legal. Nadja doesn’t really like it, but she has two kids and not that many options. When Igor hatches a new plan though – buying the Schwedenbrücke in Vienna (a bridge in the city center) to build an estate on – this is easier said than done, even in Vienna where people are willing to be very flexible for profit. Enter Klaus (Georg Friedrich), the husband of Nadja’s best friend Vera (Darya Nosik). Klaus has been waiting for an opportunity to make a deal or two with Igor and is sure that he can provide the necessary connections. The money that needs to change hands does give Nadja, Vera and Nadja’s nanny Teresa (Sabrina Reiter) an idea, though. Maybe this time it is them who get to be rich.

Kaviar is an entertaining film that makes fun of both Russian and (and even more so) Austrian business men. With its feminist undertones and its perfect political timing, it’s certainly a film to see.

The film poster showing Nadja (Margarita Breitkreiz) biting her lip, with Vera (Darya Nosik) and Teresa (Sabrina Reiter) behind her. Below them are Ferdinand (Simon Schwarz), Igor (Mikhail Evlanov) and Klaus (Georg Friedrich) toasting with champagne and a suitcase full of cash.
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Schachnovelle [The Royal Game] (2021)

Schachnovelle
Director: Philipp Stölzl
Writer: Eldar Grigorian
Based on: Stefan Zweig‘s novella
Cast: Oliver Masucci, Albrecht Schuch, Birgit Minichmayr, Samuel Finzi, Andreas Lust, Clemens Berndorff, Moritz von Treuenfels, Rolf Lassgård
Seen on: 14.10.2021

Content Note: torture

Plot:
Josef Bartok (Oliver Masucci) is a successful lawyer and a rich man. He follows the upcoming popular vote on the annexation of Austria to Germany with a clear distaste for the Nazis, but he is also sure that they cannot succeed. Out one night with his wife Anna (Birgit Minichmayr) he receives word, though: there will be no vote, the Nazis are taking over – and they are coming for him. Bartok takes care to destroy his ledgers, making his clients’ funds inaccessible, but he gets caught and is delivered into the mercy of Franz-Josef Böhm (Albrecht Schuch). In the subsequent months of torture, a booklet on chess is Bartok’s only hope to get through everything.

Schachnovelle is a good, intense film that could have maybe dialled it down a little. But that’s more a matter of taste than anything else – I thought it was very strong.

The film poster showing Josef Bartok (Oliver Masucci) in profile above a cruise ship. Inside his head we can also see Franz-Josef Böhm (Albrecht Schuch), Anna (Birgit Minichmayr) and a crowd surrounding a car.
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