Austrian Co-Productions on a Winning Streak

After a hugely successful year for domestic films, Austria’s movie industry is looking forward to another impressive crop of titles, including many international co-productions that reflect not only cultural and historical ties with neighboring countries but also the sector’s strong cross-border partnerships.

Highly anticipated films this year include Hans Steinbichler’s “A Whole Life,” the story of a humble man’s existence in an Alpine valley that spans more than eight decades; Dieter Berner’s “Alma and Oskar,” which explores the passionate and tumultuous affair between Viennese composer and socialite Alma Mahler and artist Oskar Kokoschka in the early 1900s; and Timm Kröger’s “The Theory of Everything,” a black-and-white, 1960s-set mystery-thriller that takes place in a scientific conference in the Alps.

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Forthcoming releases include works from established directors and young filmmakers, says Anne Laurent-Delage, executive director of promotional organization Austrian Films. This year’s strong showing follows an “outstanding year” for Austrian cinema, she adds. “It looks like 2023 will be another great year.”

Based on Robert Seethaler’s bestselling novel that has been translated into 40 languages, “A Whole Life” is produced by Vienna’s EpoFilm and Tobis Film in Germany. The film shot in Austria’s Alpine East Tyrol region as well as on location in neighboring Italy and Germany.

Andreas Rothbauer, managing director of Picture Tree Intl., which is selling the film, says the story of a humble man who enjoys small moments of bliss throughout his very difficult life “really reminds you of the things that really matter.”

“Alma & Oskar” reunites Berner and Vienna-based Film AG (previously known as Novotny und Novotny Film) following 2016’s hugely successful “Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden.”

Co-producing “Alma and Oskar” are Turnus Film in Switzerland, Germany’s Wüste Film and Czech company Dawson Film. In addition to Vienna and Lower Austria, the film also shot on location in Prague, the Swiss canton of Thurgau and the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

Film AG also produced Marie Kreutzer’s critically acclaimed historical drama “Corsage,” starring Vicky Krieps as Empress Elisabeth of Austria. It bowed in Cannes last year and went on to become Austria’s official entry in the international feature Oscar race. In realizing the lavish production, Film AG teamed up with Luxembourg’s Samsa Film, Germany’s Komplizen Film and Kazak Prods. in France.

Both “Alma & Oskar” and “Corsage” proved ideal international co-productions in view of the “iconic, historical figures at the center of their narrative,” says Film AG managing director Alexander Glehr.

“Alma & Oskar,” Glehr adds, similarly “centers on two historical figures who are known far beyond the borders of Austria: Alma Mahler, a central female figure of the early 20th century, an artist, a muse, an intellectual, a cosmopolitan, and Oskar Kokoschka, an Austrian artist who left his mark on European art history via the Czech Republic and Germany until his death in Switzerland in [1980].”

Like “Egon Schiele,” which sold in more than 40 countries, “Alma & Oskar” was penned by Berger and Hilde Berger. “We were able to build on this success in this new co-production between Austria, Switzerland, Germany and the Czech Republic.”

As a minority co-producer, Film AG also partnered with Germany’s Geissendörfer Pictures and Giganten Film and fellow Austrian companies Lotus Film and 2010 Entertainment on Adrian Goiginger’s upcoming World War II drama “The Fox,” the true story of a young army courier who saves a fox cub, with whom he forms a deep bond.

“We are happy to have gained both experience and invaluable international friendships as well as pieces of an international network from all these collaborations,” Glehr says.

“The Theory of Everything” was likewise co-produced by international partners, with Kröger and Viktoria Stolpe’s Berlin-based the Barricades collaborating on the project with Lixi Frank and David Bohun’s Panama Film in Vienna, Germany’s and Catpics in Switzerland.

Panama Film and the Barricades are also producing Sandra Wollner’s “Everytime” after partnering on the director’s 2020 science fiction drama “The Trouble With Being Born.” Currently in development, “Everytime” follows Ella, a grieving mother who has become inseparable from Lux, the love of her late daughter.

Vienna’s Freibeuter Film, which joined Leipzig-based Rohfilm Prods. on Sebastian Meise’s award-winning 2021 prison drama “Great Freedom,” is partnering with Germany’s Match Factory Prods. and Tellfilm of Switzerland on Johanna Moder’s “Motherhood.” Currently in development, the film centers on a woman who, after the traumatic birth of her first child, becomes convinced that something is wrong with her baby and that this new presence in her home is something alien.

Tellfilm likewise produced Margarethe von Trotta’s Berlin competition title “Ingeborg Bachmann — Journey Into the Desert,” starring Krieps as the titular Austrian author, along with Amour Fou Vienna, Germany’s Heimatfilm and Amour Fou Luxembourg. Award-winning filmmaker Jessica Hausner (“Little Joe”), meanwhile, shot her forthcoming drama “Club Zero” in the U.K. and Austria.

The film features Mia Wasikowska as a teacher at an elite school who forms a dangerous bond with her students. Hausner’s Vienna-based Coop99 produced with Philippe Bober’s German and French shingles Essential Film and Société Parisienne de Production.

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