The Austro-Comedy and the Brenner Trilogy Open Access

Richards, Sarah (2014)

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Austrian director Wolfgang Murnberger, author Wolf Haas, and comedian/actor Josef Hader have collaborated on three recent films based on Haas' best-selling detective novels: Come, Sweet Death (2000), Silentium! (2004), and The Bone Man (2009). All three films have been critically acclaimed and stand among the top ten most successful domestic films at the Austrian box office since Austria's national film subsidy began in 1981. While they can be considered part of the national film renaissance known as New Austrian Film, these are commercial popular films meant to entertain a domestic audience. All are also exemplars of a local genre, the Austro-comedy, which has developed out of the Austrian tradition of the Volksstueck, or folk play, and which takes a self-critical perspective towards Austria. This project attempts to situate the three Brenner films within the Austrian film industry and "translate" them for an American audience by providing historical and cultural context. In addition, it investigates each of the three films as an example of the Austro-comedy, an adaptation of a novel, and a specifically Austrian work of art. The analysis of Come, Sweet Death centers on the characterization of its anti-hero protagonist, Simon Brenner, familiar to local audiences from the books but appearing on-screen for the first time; the depiction of his milieu, the non-touristy side of Vienna; and the establishment of an unusual film language to adapt the remarkable voice of Wolf Haas' narrator into a different medium. Silentium! is considered in light of the ways in which it disrupts Austria's well-known guiding narratives, putting the lie to stereotypes of Salzburg as simply a tourist's Baroque paradise (and the setting for The Sound of Music and the glamorous Salzburger Festspiele) and questioning, if not smashing, people's trust in long-standing institutions such as the Catholic Church. The investigation of The Bone Man focuses on the use of Austrian dialect as a cultural marker and unpacks the two key sets of tensions, between Austria and neighboring countries and between Vienna and the provincial countryside, that collide in a masquerade ball at the end of the film.

Table of Contents

Introduction: 1

Chapter One: 14 The Austro-Comedy in Context

Chapter Two: 42 Vienna's Not Just 'Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice': Come, Sweet Death as Austro-Comedy

Chapter Three: 70 More than 'Mozart on chocolate balls and in concert halls': Dismantling Stereotypical Salzburg in Silentium!

Chapter Four: 99 It's All (Chicken) Sausage to Me: Dining, Dialects, and Divisions in The Bone Man

Conclusion: 129


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