A most potent representation of New Austrian Film's critical vision is Ulrich Seidl's Hundstage (Dog Days, 2001), which presents six interrelated episodes taking place during a late summer weekend. Lurking just beneath the facades of peaceful and tidy suburban life are often grotesque vignettes of desire, loneliness, criminality and brutality. While the film articulates contemporary Austrian social anxieties, it is also universal in its exploration of middle-class alienation.
Götz Spielmann's Antares (2004) is also constructed as an episodic drama about three couples who reside in the same housing complex and eventually cross paths. Like Barbara Albert's Free Radicals, it is tied to a cosmic notion. Unlike Albert's more philosophical approach, Spielmann's overlapping story lines are incidental and his sexually frank and open-ended examination of seduction, jealousy, deceit and domestic violence recalls far more the desolation of Seidl's Dog Days.
Jessica Hausner has clearly moved into a more stylized direction with her Hitchcockian second feature, Hotel (2004), in which a young woman working as a receptionist in a luxury mountain resort stumbles upon the mysterious circumstances of her predecessor's disappearance. She is pulled into a maze of secrets and false conclusions until her own identity and possible fate begins to replicate that of the victim. Hausner references aspects of the thriller genre, but rejects formula and concentrates on themes of perception.
The themes of ethnic and psychological self-realization pervade the films of several new directors and writers. A standout among these is Mein Russland (My Russia, 2002) by Barbara Gräftner. Basing the story on her own family's experience with her brother's marriage to a Ukranian, she presents a divorced middle-aged Viennese woman who resists her son's marriage to a Russian girl. Gräftner's black comedy arises from the bringing together of what she sees are the pragmatic, even metaphysical Russians and the goal-oriented, often prejudicial Austrians.
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