By Robert von Dassanowsky
This primer picks up where Austrian Film to 2000 left off.
By mid-decade of this century, Austrian filmmakers have reacted to the shifting identity values of their nation by exposing and rejecting artificial representations, particularly regarding national image and social construction. It appears to be the goal of most, if not all Austrian filmmakers of the era to put substance, no matter how discordant or unpleasant, back into the "product."
Barbara Albert's Falling.
While New Austrian Film has had several phases beginning in the early 1980s, it has become the "hot spot" internationally since the end of the 90s, when Barbara Albert's Nordrand (City Skirts, 1999) became the first Austrian production in decades invited to screen in competition at the Venice Film Festival. Nordrand focuses on two women whose lives attract other young people of different ethnic and sociocultural backgrounds. Seeking self-realization, emotional support, and concerned with bringing children into this world, they live in a housing project on Vienna's north side and flounder between memories of war in Yugoslavia, temporary jobs, and unwanted pregnancies until they finally drift apart.
Albert returns to the communal circle in Böse Zellen (Free Radicals, 2003), a film created around the idea of the "butterfly effect." Her film begins with a plane crash, whose sole survivor, Manu (played by one of the multitalents of the Austrian New Wave, Kathrin Resetarits), is later killed in an automobile accident. During her "stolen" time and after her death, Manu becomes the hub of several parallel stories involving her troubled surviving family and friends and their haunting symbol of the irony and unpredictability of life as they fight off abuse and loneliness. Albert's Fallen (Falling, 2006) focuses specifically on female friendship and the possibility of reinvention. Albert's lead as break-out director is but one example of the major role women are playing in this national cinematic resurrection.
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