Austria Cinema and Theater


The silent production, dominated by Count Sacha Kolowrat, can pass without history. Characteristic instead is the first phase following the advent of sound, during which the trend of fictionalized biographies of famous composers was widely exploited, set in the Vienna of the Habsburg Empire, capital of court dances and the happy life of the nobles. The director-actor Willi Forst (from Angels without heaven, 1933, to Bel Ami, 1939), the singer Martha Eggerth (later paired with Jan Kiepura) and the dramatic actress Paula Wessely distinguished themselves in this genre.. If since the silent period the studies had hosted Hungarian exiles or started the activity of illustrious names in Germany, Austrian production was always closely intertwined with the German one, also suffering the repercussions (inflation of the first post-war period) or impositions ( the Anschluss). After the Second World War, the greatest destruction in Germany and the demand for films from the West German market favored the reconstitution and growth of the film industry in Vienna, where a group of old Nazi UFA traders moved for a series production. which reached 20-30 films per year. International success was achieved only by E. Marischka Sissi’s trilogy (1955-57) and by a co-production with Yugoslavia (The Last Bridge, 1954), directed by the German director H. Käunter. At home, the Viennese GW Pabst closed his career and life trying, with The trial (1948) and The last act (1955), to redeem his collaborationism. Between the sixties and seventies, the commercial direction in current production continued, however, the various experimental and avant-garde researches, by P. Kubelka, then by H. Vesely, E. Schmidt jr., F. Fallenberg should be noted., T. Leber and others. Since 1977 and throughout the 1980s, thanks to the annual Österreichische Filmtage festival, which takes place in Vienna, and with adequate legislation to support national production, Austrian cinema has experienced a timid rebirth, not so much in quantitative terms, but with the emergence of some personalities with different tendencies and cultural backgrounds: from the promising Niki List to Robert Dornhelm, from Peter Patzak and Xaver Schwarzenberger (former director of photography for RW Fassbinder), Axel Corti (who won internationally in 1986 with Welcome in Vienna), Harald Sicheritz and Barbara Albert (who presented his Nordrand at the 1999 Venice Film Festival). But the best-known director beyond national borders is Michael Haneke: sensitive to the theme of violence and oppression in contemporary society from the very beginning (Der siebente Kontinent, 1989), he participated twice in the Cannes Film Festival: the first in 1997 with Funny Games, the second in 2001 with La pianista, based on the novel of the same name by E. Jelinek, which earned him the Special Grand Prize of the jury.

Austria Cinema


According to naturegnosis, the history of the Austrian theater is largely linked to that of the German theater: the exchanges of scripts, actors and directors were in fact continuous at least starting from the eighteenth century. However, Vienna and Austria have developed their own theatrical forms since the Middle Ages sacred (the Passionsspiele of the capital and Tyrol) and profane (the Alpine Neidhartspiele on the theme of the return of spring and a variant, also Tyrolean, of the Fastnachtspiel linked to the freedom of Carnival). It is from this popular tradition that the character of Hanswurst was derived, a comic mask of an urbanized peasant rich in common sense, created towards the end of the sixteenth century and brought to its most complete expression a century later by the actor JA Stranitzky. This type of farce, very welcome to the Viennese public, coexisted for a long time with the operas, ballets and baroque machines that came from Italy. In 1741, after the parable of the scholastic drama edited by Jesuits, Benedictines and Piarists had already been completed, the Burgtheater was opened, destined for more literally committed scripts, to which in 1776 a decree of Joseph II conferred the dignity of national theater. Five years later the Leopoldstädter Theater was inaugurated, which continued the trend of light theater bringing it to perfection in the nineteenth century with the delightful fantastic-folkloric fables of the actor-author-director Ferdinand Raimund. A third important room was the Theater an der Wien, opened in 1789 by E. Schikaneder, the librettist of the Magic Flute. Here, from 1831 to 1860, the actor-impresario-playwright J. Nestroy he worked to renew the Viennese popular comedy, introducing satirical elements, giving great importance to linguistic games and building comic mechanisms of extraordinary effectiveness. Nestroy, however, left no heirs and the popular tradition ended up flowing into the pleasant but rather futile formulas of the operetta and the magazine, very successful even abroad. However, it was the Burg that dominated the Austrian theater over the last two centuries, in an often fruitful balance between conservation and innovation: it was here that the greatest Austrian playwrights, from F. Grillparzer to A. Schnitzler, had their works performed. H. von Hofmannsthal, F. Werfel, A. Bronnen, F. Bruckner up to P. Handke and Th. Bernhard. And it was here that the new ideas of staging proposed by minor theaters were learned, avoiding, as far as possible, slipping into a flat academicism. There are permanent theaters in Innsbruk, Linz, Klagenfurt, Graz and Salzburg, the latter home since 1917, of a famous Festival commissioned by the director Max Reinhardt to present, in addition to operas and concerts, also prose shows: especially memorable one Hofmannsthal’s edition of Everyone, replicated for many decades. The mix of symphonic music, opera, operetta and theater is also found in the Bregenz Festival.

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