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by Josef Hader

grade: 6.5

Wild Mouse, written, directed and performed by comedian Josef Hader and presented in competition at the 67th Berlinale , is a personal drama, but above all a (not too) soft critique of society and the world of work, where the saying “mors tua, vita mea” has never been so apt.

Whoever is without sin…

Since the 1960s, many Austrian artists and intellectuals, such as Thomas Bernhardt, Peter Turrini and Elfriede Jelinek, have used their often irreverent works to make a stark and merciless criticism of Austrian (and specifically Viennese) society. This current – which mainly points the finger at the sort of latent fascism that is still strongly rooted in today’s society – still makes its traces felt today within the recently produced works. In film, for example, a particularly sharp gaze can be found in Ulrich Seidl’s works. And yet, however, it is also a leitmotif in many other feature films, even contemporary ones. One of them, for example, is Wild Mouse (original title: Wilde Maus), written, directed and performed by comedian Josef Hader and presented in competition at the 67th Berlinale.

Georg (Josef Hader) is an appreciated music critic who is unfairly dismissed due to his obsolete way of working. However, he decides not to tell anything to his wife (Pia Hierzegger) – who is already under pressure from not being able to get pregnant – and tries, together with an old friend he met by chance at Prater, to start managing a merry-go-round in the amusement park (a roller coaster called “WIlde Maus”, hence the original title). At the same time, however, the man takes little revenge on his former boss at night, scratching his car or destroying the surveillance cameras in front of his house. This precarious situation, however, does not seem to be destined to last long.

Hader’s black comedy boasts a semantically and visually surprising opening, especially when, on the notes of Vivaldi, we see Georg – into long shot – walking across an enormous snowfield, then digging a hole and sitting in it. What could he be up to? In fact, from this moment on, a series of often politically incorrect gags will frame a story that – both in terms of script and direction – seems to flow smoothly. The well chosen rhythms and a clever acting direction – where the characters are almost static and apparently inexpressive – together with an often fixed camera and very close-ups direction, show a personal drama, but above all a society and a world of work, where the saying “mors tua, vita mea” has never been so apt. Just think, in fact, of Georg’s boss who ruined Georg’s career, while Georg himself turns out to have ruined the career of a young aspiring musician, who is now working in a Japanese diner. In the background, last but not least, a Vienna – gloomy, rainy and silent spectator of Georg’s misadventures – which in this case is barely highlighted, except during the sunsets seen from above from the Wilde Maus rollercoaster.

In this work, Hader was not afraid of attacking everything and everyone. Even Italians (what a surprise, eh?), when the protagonist’s friend (not excessively) jokingly defines Italy as “the world’s ass”. And – and this is exactly the case – “every man for himself”.

Original title: Wilde Maus
Directed by: Josef Hader
Country/year:Austria, Germany / 2017
Running time: 103’
Genre: comedy
Cast: Josef Hader, Pia Hierzegger, Georg Friedrich, Nora von Waldstätten, Murathan Muslu, Denis Moschitto
Screenplay: Josef Hader
Cinematography: Andreas Thalhammer, Xiaosu Han
Produced by: Michael Katz, Veit Heiduschka

Info: Wild Mouse’s page on the website of the Austrian Film Commission