Dir: Adrian Goiginger | Cast: Simon Morzé, Karl Markovics, Hana Geißendörfer, Marko Kerezovic, Joseph Stoisits, Pit Bukowski, Stanislaus Steinbichler, Adriane Gradzie | Austia, Drama 117′
A boy brings meaning to his life after a tragic childhood rejection in this enchanting Austrian wartime Heimatfilm that harks back to the cinema of Leni Riefenstahl, with its academy ratio and suberb visual allure.
The Fox is a sophomore feature for the Austrian director Adrian Goiginger who was inspired by the true story of his great-grandfather Franz Steitberger, who grew up in a farm on the Pinzgau mountains in Austria.
In the early 1930s rural life was still unmechanised and little Franz is forced to work hard in the farm until he is forcibly removed from his father, Karl Markovics in a cameo role, and taken away. The story then jumps forwards several years to 1937 when Franz (Morze) is conscripted into the army during the Second World War, when Austria became part of Nazi Germany during the Anschluss.
The harsh reality of war leaves the introverted young soldier traumatised but wandering in the woods one day he finds solace in the discovery of a baby fox separated from his family after the death of its mother. The two become inseparable, the fox travelling with Franz in his sidecar as a dispatch driver from Poland to France and towards the Eastern Front.
Despite its rather unsatisfactory plot resolution, this is a slim but beautifully told and deeply affecting wartime drama that once again emphasises how animals can often replace the human element offering comfort and emotional security in times of crisis. MT
Adrian Goiginger and lead actor Simon Morze will attend the screening and take part in a Q&A as part of watchAUT Austrian Film Festival that opens in London on 23 March 2023