Everything is floating in a timeless dimension in Vergiss Sneider!, Götz Spielmann’s medium-length graduation film. And next to a dark humour in the background, next to a subtle as well as vibrant eroticism, next to characters whose obsessions are taken to the extreme, we see a theatrical mise-en-scène that clearly refers to the Theatre of the Absurd, without forgetting Roman Polanski himself or even the science fiction films of the glorious Hollywood of the 1950s and 1960s.
In the rooms of Schönbrunn
From a controversial and brave director like Götz Spielmann, one really expects everything. And even when we think of Vergiss Sneider!, his medium-length graduation film from the Filmakademie Wien made in 1987, we cannot fail to notice an extremely mature and attentive gaze, capable of bringing to life surreal situations without ever exaggerating or ending up in the already seen.
Because, in fact, while Spielmann drew heavily on what had been realised in the past, he was able to create a totally new dimension in staging the vicissitudes of five people – each of whom seems to have nothing in common with the others – who seem to live in a sort of limbo… inside Schönbrunn Palace.
A member of this bizarre group is Pollux (played by Wolfgang Böck), a former boxer obsessed with his adversary Sneider, with whom he has never been able to meet due to unexpected and mysterious programme changes. Next to him we see Heck (Wolf Bachofner), a troubled trumpeter who cannot find an audience to listen to him anymore, and Carmen (Claudia Martini), a charming strong-willed woman who seems to hold the reins of the house. And if, from time to time, an elderly deaf-mute lady (Eleonora von Thurn und Taxis) peeps into the main hall, even more mysterious seems to be the character of Kaminski (Jörg Gillner), who is in charge of procuring food for his housemates and who, every day – before leaving the house – must wear a special protective suit.
Why do these five characters seem to be the only living beings left on earth? How do things really stand? Spielmann, for his part, avoids any banal explanations, but lets the audience draw their own conclusions. And his subjective mise-en-scene speaks for itself.
An overexposed black and white – almost suggesting a timeless dimension or, better still, a dimension in which time seems to have (momentarily?) stopped – immediately becomes the trademark of Vergiss Sneider!. Similarly, the unique location chosen, just like a feature film of Roman Polanski, immediately conveys an unusual sense of claustrophobia. The magnitude of the rooms and the freedom of the characters to move around inside an enormous castle, then, immediately gives us the idea of a ‘limited’, fake freedom, of a gilded cage from which one cannot get out. Unless one is prepared to take a great, great risk.
Everything is floating in a timeless dimension in Vergiss Sneider!. And next to a dark humour in the background, next to a subtle yet vibrant eroticism (typical of the films of the director from Wels), next to characters whose nature is taken to the extreme (see, above all, Pollux’s obsession with his missed adversary Sneider), we see a theatrical mise-en-scène that clearly refers to the Theatre of the Absurd – from Beckett to Ionesco – without forgetting Roman Polanski himself or even the science fiction films of the glorious Hollywood of the 1950s and 1960s.
The rest is the cinema of Götz Spielmann. Or, better still, what would become the cinema of Götz Spielmann. The cinema of Götz Spielmann with all its protagonists tormented by ancestral obsessions, who never seem to find peace. Or maybe not? What awaits the characters outside the door? Will they ever have the courage to cross it? And, above all, who are all those elegant gentlemen who – following a tour guide who tells them about the splendour of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by leading them through the rooms of the palace – soon end up fading to nothing?
Vergiss Sneider! thus establishes the birth of a very prolific and controversial career, anticipating, but also experimenting with and, in many ways, taking its constants to extremes. And a quotable and highly surreal medium-length film like this already reveals a mature and detail-oriented gaze. Despite (at the time) little experience behind the camera.
Original title: Vergiss Sneider!
Directed by: Götz Spielmann
Country/year: Austria / 1987
Running time: 63’
Genre: surreal, grotesque
Cast: Wolfgang Böck, Claudia Martini, Wolf Bachofner, Eleonora von Thurn und Taxis, Elmar Prack, Jörg Gillner
Screenplay: Götz Spielmann
Cinematography: Peter Zeitlinger
Produced by: Götz Spielmann, Eva Mayer