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Austrian Cinema

Wiener Kunstfilm

Wiener Kunstfilm

Austrian Cinema

The cinema of Austria was born in the beginnings of the 20th century, the silent film era. In those times, the productions made in the country were mainly short news reels produced by French companies. Few years after, the first Austrians decided to try their luck with the cameras in a project which became the first ever Austrian cinematographic project made. The result was a series of erotic short films produced by the photographer Johan Shwarzer.

The responsible of the Austrian cinema´s evolution was Alexander Kolowrat, better known as “Sascha”, who created the first big film studios in Vienna. He, an obvious pioneer of the cinema in his country was curiously born in the US due to his grandfather’s personal problems when the family escaped to America. Years later, Alexander invested the heritance left by his father to create a company called SaschaFilm, which produced epic films like Sodom and Gomorrah in 1922.

When the World War I was bound to start the production companies started to boost up making the popular news reels and then beginning their first attempts on fiction stories. In those years, around 1918, a company called Wiener Kunstfilm was set up, and with the years, it created a new genre called Wiener Cinema, which lasted for about 30 years.

Wiener Cinema

This genre -popular and successful in the first half of the past century- combined comedy, drama and romance in stories about the day-to-day life in the late 19th century in Vienna.  The juxtaposition of opposite feelings like anger and happiness was often one of its most common characteristics.

One of the reasons for the popularization of the Weiner Cinema was the weakness of the Austrian currency and the production costs were relatively cheaper compared with the ones in other countries. Those years the number of annual productions raised the hundred. Among the most renowned filmmakers of the movement are Erich Engel ((… nur ein Komödiant de 1935) and Paul Fejos with his masterpiece Sonnenstrahl (translated as Ray of Light) in 1933.

The musical era and unexpected changes

After the World War I the musicals about life in the countryside began to gain recognition among the industry and critics, but the genre achieved even more success after the World War II was finished. Plenty of those period’s productions portrayed the elegant and luxury times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire an imaginative way to escape from the ending conflict.

In the 70s and 90s, with the new technological advances and a new generation of filmmakers, new genres began to take part on the Austrian cinema. Action, fiction, fantasy and terror movies started to pave their way in national productions due to Hollywood influences.

     

Erich Engel

Erich Engel

The Counterfeiters

The Counterfeiters

Today

Modern Austrian cinema has been internationally acclaimed for depicting poignant and real social dramas and has been awarded in different film festivals since the 90s. Amongst the most important is Stefan Ruzowitzky’s The Counterfeiters, an Oscar-winning film for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007.

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