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by Harald Sicheritz

grade: 6.5

Mother’s Day – Harald Sicheritz’s debut feature, which, alongside an often excessively fragmented plot, features an overall good characterisation of upper-class Austrian society – has become, over the years, a true cult within contemporary Austrian cinema.

Ready to celebrate mothers

It was not intended to be a film for the big screen, Mother’s Day. In fact, it was not even conceived as a television film. Yet, as the project came to life, this debut feature by now well-known director Harald Sicheritz gave the idea of something that would capture the attention of a large number of spectators. And so, in the end, it did. Yes, because, made in 1993 and first released in Austrian cinemas in February 1994, Mother’s Day has, over the years, become a veritable cult film within contemporary Austrian cinema. Despite numerous negative reviews that were published shortly after its initial theatrical release.

However, what over time became a full-length film that was repeatedly screened to audiences, was initially intended to be a cabaret show. And so, a team formed by the well-known cabaret performer Alfred Dorfer, together with Harald Sicheritz himself, screenwriter Peter Berecz and actor Roland Düringer, in bringing the script to life, thought of creating something even bigger. And so Mother’s Day was born, made with a rather low budget and which immediately presented itself as a very unusual work, in which some actors (including Dorfer himself together with Roland Düringer, Eva Billisich, Andrea Händler and Reinhard Nowak) often play more than one role.

The staged story focuses on the Neugebauer family on the eve of Mother’s Day. Edwin and Trude Neugebauer (Reinhard Nowak and Andrea Händler) have been married for several years and passion seems to have faded between them. Mischa (Alfred Dorfer) is their teenage son who is making an electric knife for his mother for the upcoming holiday. Together with them lives Grandpa Neugebauer (Roland Düringer), who, in order not to be sent to live in an old people’s home, decides to donate all his savings to a good cause. Over the course of two days, then, we witness the family’s many tragicomic adventures, which also involve, from time to time, the neighbours, some acquaintances and a few of Mischa’s friends.

When Harald Sicheritz made this Mother’s Day, he was barely a debutant and, until then, had made himself known mainly for his talents as a musician (his band, the Wiener Wunder, often appears during the film). And yet, with this imperfect comedy, which, alongside an often excessively fragmentary plot, sees within it an overall good characterisation of Austrian upper-class society and the Meidling district (once quite rough), he succeeded to all intents and purposes in achieving notoriety, to the point of becoming one of the major exponents of the Austrian main stream comedy tradition. And despite the fact that during his now long and prolific career he has not always convinced audiences and critics alike, with Mother’s Day he has nonetheless managed to create a true cult film. Despite the numerous imperfections that such a work clearly has.

Because, in fact, this lively and colourful feature film not only brings more than a few smiles thanks to paradoxical situations, numerous misunderstandings, characters whose characteristics are exaggerated to the point of becoming almost caricatures, and a kind of humour with a welcome British touch, but is mainly striking for its detailed portrayal of society, from friends who are ready to gossip about their acquaintances to extramarital affairs with unexpected implications, not forgetting bizarre initiation rites to become a full member of a new group of friends. What, then, has today’s society become? And, specifically, what has the city of Vienna become? ‘I don’t recognise my city any more,’ says the mayor (played by the great Fritz Muliar), looking out of his car window, as he is travelling through the Meidling district. And yet, in spite of everything, there are probably many who have recognised themselves, depending on the time, in some of the protagonists. And this is perhaps the great peculiarity of Mother’s Day: the ability to laugh at certain situations without taking itself too seriously, highlighting certain ‘weaknesses’ of the characters (and, more generally, of contemporary society), without wanting to point the finger at something and without expecting the audience to ask too many questions about it.

Original title: Muttertag – Die härtere Komödie
Directed by: Harald Sicheritz
Country/year: Austria / 1993
Running time: 95’
Genre: comedy
Cast: Alfred Dorfer, Reinhard Nowak, Andrea Händler, Eva Billisich, Roland Düringer, Karl Künstler, Silvia Fenz, Beatrice Frey, Gudrun Tielsch, Lukas Resetarits, Willi Resetarits, I Stangl, Herwig Seeböck, Monica Weinzettl, Walter Kordesch, Niki List, Karl Markovics, Fritz Muliar, Günther Paal, Hanno Pöschl, Peter Berecz, Alexander Biedermann, Haymon Maria Buttinger, Martin Beck, Harald Sicheritz, Helmut Sicheritz, Roland Neuwirth
Screenplay: Peter Berecz, Alfred Dorfer, Roland Düringer, Harald Sicheritz
Cinematography: Helmut Pirnat
Produced by: Fernsehfilmproduktion Dr. Heinz Schneiderbauer

Info: the page of Mother’s Day on iMDb; the page of Mother’s Day on the website of the Filmarchiv Austria