Dir: Stefan Ruzowitzky | Austria/Luxembourg, Noir Thriller 99′
Germany and Austria have been brought to their knees after gruelling defeat in the Great War and limp home broken to a decadent Vienna amidst poverty, despair – and a serial killer on the loose – in this stylish noir thriller that sees Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky return after his The Counterfeiters won the international Oscar. For once the tight running time could have been extended to fully flesh out the story which also could work well in as a Netflix series.
In the opening scenes a ship glides by laden with dead and mutilated soldiers, the living barely alive against the atmospheric green-screen technology that pictures utter devastation an a desperate homecoming. The men soon discover their surviving comrades are being preyed upon by a grisly murderer as the story unfolds around Marathon Muslu’s dynamite performance as an injured veteran embroiled in the murder mystery.
Wonky German expressionistic framing and a sombre atmosphere creates a jagged-edged feel echoing M by Fritz Lang or even something out of Grimms’ Fairy tales, suffused with Klimt’s jewel-like Secessionist paintings transporting us back to early 1920s Vienna where a savage mood of mistrust prevails at every turn in the decadent splendour of the Austrian capital. But our war hero Peter Perg (Muslu), once a respected police officer and criminologist, is still haunted by the past. After dark, the nightmarish terror of his Russian internment camp looms up in dream sequences on the vast wall behind his bed in the apartment he once shared with his wife who has fled to the sanctuary of the countryside with their daughter. Meanwhile the fatherland has lost its indomitable Emperor emperor (Franz Joseph, in 1916), and Austria is raging against a climate of anarchy and political unrest brewing throughout Vienna’s tea rooms.
Perg teams up with the Poirot-like Detective Renner (Marc Limpach) and pathologist Theresa Korner (Liv Liese Fries) to fathom out a motive for the horrific murders perpetrated by the “Beast of Vienna” – one particularly gruesome corpse has been decapitated and flayed with a cat o’nine tails, another left to be eaten alive by sewer rats. But the team’s interest focuses on the iniquitous murder of Perg’s war-wounded comrades, who are being picked off, one by one, his close friend Captain Krainer appears to have been garrotted by the roaming psychopath. And as their investigations go underground to the murky depth’s of the city sewers Peter becomes meets the killer face to face in this seedy and stylishly evocative serial killer thriller. MT
NOW ON RELEASE IN FRANCE | LOCARNO FILM FESTIVAL PREMIERE 2021