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by Leo Tichat

grade: 8

Die Verwundbaren – a unique shocking film in the history of Austrian cinema – is the only directing experience of the painter, set and costume designer Leo Tichat, who has always been fascinated by the Nouvelle Vague, to the point that he wanted to make a feature film that would be completely in line with the principles of the revolutionary French film movement.

On the streets of Vienna

Among the outstanding directors in the history of Austrian cinema, we undoubtedly find Leo Tichat. Active mainly as a painter, set and costume designer, he has always been fascinated by the Nouvelle Vague, to the point that he wanted to make a feature film that would be completely in line with the rules of the revolutionary French film movement. And so, in 1967, the controversial Die Verwundbaren came to life, his only experience as a director, which immediately presented itself as a real scandal film, complete with sexually explicit scenes and, last but not least, the story of a homosexual love affair. Obviously, this was a problem for the distributors of the time, who cut it heavily and then released it two years later under the title Engel der Lust (Angel of Desire).

And yet, if we want to place Die Verwundbaren within the history of Austrian cinema, we realise how it represents a real black swan, confused among the numerous films produced in Austria over the years. An operation, this one, undoubtedly courageous, undoubtedly interesting from a stylistic point of view, which, however, while not aiming to create something new (at least as far as the mise-en-scène itself is concerned), stands as a sincere homage to French cinema. Yet, there is still something in which Leo Tichat wanted to experimente. And it is precisely something new, something that was to tell of a forbidden passion that has created the greatest problems for him in terms of distribution.

We find ourselves, then, in a Vienna of the early 1960s. A Vienna in which the influences of the World War II and its impact on young people are still strongly evident. And it is precisely this strong sense of disorientation that leads the young protagonists to wander seemingly aimlessly through the streets of the city, only interested in new sexual adventures, perpetually struggling with bad relationships and frequenting parties and nightclubs. An ensemble film, Die Verwundbaren, in which the camera runs frantically from one character to another, showing us, from time to time, only glimpses of their everyday life through sometimes oblique shots, which seem to observe the characters through a sort of curtain.

Hence, shooting on the street – as, in fact, the tradition of the Nouvelle Vague and, before it, the neo-realist tradition dictates – use of real locations and (some) non-professional actors. The reality is as we are shown, in one, many dramatic stories staged with that sort of subtle lightness (also thanks to a constant soundtrack composed of now swing now jazz melodies) typical of the glorious French cinema of those years. And so, in Die Verwundbaren we find both a bit of Jean-Luc Godard, as well as Jean Eustache, but also some undertones of the excellent Shadows, John Cassavetes’ first film. All this, in its way, makes a unique film, which, in spite of being inspired solidly by other important works, fully copes with every situation staged. Particularly noteworthy, in this regard, is the excellent cross cutting that shows us a night party happening simultaneously with a murder. A frenetic editing, this one, which not only concerns this moment, but the entire feature film. Everything goes fast in Die Verwundbaren. Too fast. So fast that there seems to be almost no time to stop and think and to notice other people as well as oneself.

And so the focus of the film shifts from France to Austria. Or rather, perhaps never moved from there. And it is precisely in a country like this one that the war had such a strong impact on young and old people, as mentioned earlier. But it is only at the end of the screening that we realise Leo Tichat’s pessimism about the future and about the future of young people themselves. What will happen to them? No one can say. And yet, those cars inside a junkyard, parked with almost mathematical precision that are shown to us in a meaningful tracking shot speak clearly. Very clearly.

Original title: Die Verwundbaren
Directed by: Leo Tichat
Country/year: Austria / 1967
Running time: 58’
Genre: drama, ensemble movie
Cast: Charlotte Artner, Frank Debray, Kim Dimon, Herbert Fux, Johanna Fürst, Herbert Hackl, Carl Peter Hoss, Krista Stadler, Leo Tichat
Screenplay: Leo Tichat
Cinematography: Axel Pului
Produced by: Neton Film

Info: the page of Die Verwundbaren on iMDb; the page of Die Verwundbaren on the website of the Viennale