ROMANTISCHES STEYRTAL

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by Harald Kicher

grade: 7.5

Styria is among the most picturesque and surprising federal states in Austria. And, in this regard, Romantisches Steyrtal shows us just how much potential and charm there is in the Steyrtal, one of the largest and best known Styrian valleys, with its small villages, watercourses, waterfalls and small tourist resorts.

A Styrian fairy tale

Sometimes, to convey the true essence of something, very little is needed. And in the case of a film made to show the beauties of a place, if the right choices are made, even just a little more than ten minutes are enough to make that place come alive and pulsating on the screen. And this, for example, is the case with the documentary Romantisches Steyrtal, directed by Harald Kicher in 1965.

Styria, as we know, is among the most picturesque and surprising federal states in Austria. And, in this regard, Romantisches Steyrtal shows us just how much potential and fascination there is in the Steyrtal, one of the largest and best-known Styrian valleys, with its small villages, watercourses, waterfalls and small tourist destinations.

Yes, because right from the end of World War II, documentaries such as Romantisches Steyrtal were mainly aimed at promoting tourism in Austria itself, conceived for short film screenings prior to the actual show. An Austria, this one, that – following the dramatic war that had shocked the whole world – wanted nothing more than to start again even stronger than before.

And, in this respect, these documentaries were almost perfect products, often entrusted to the mastery of experienced directors who knew where to point their cameras. And this, then, is the case with Harald Kicher, who also gave his precious little Romantisches Steyrtal a certain lyricism.

The image of two children who, at the opening of the documentary, play and chat carefree on the banks of the river is almost reminiscent of moments from Wild Strawberries – Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 masterpiece. But that’s not all: the voice-over, which, in describing the places shown, accompanies us throughout the screening, speaks to us as if we ourselves were children and as if it were even telling us a fairy tale. And so, when we move from the small villages crowded with tourists to the most unspoilt nature, and then return to observe bathers sitting by the side of a swimming pool chatting amiably and, from time to time, glancing at the camera, we immediately find ourselves in a kind of timeless place.

It is interesting to observe how, in comparison to the numerous documentaries made in these same years and with the same aims, Romantisches Steyrtal distinguishes itself by a decidedly strong authorial imprint and aims above all to have its own, marked identity. Quite different from all those other nicely made products, fascinating in their own way, but also often rather impersonal. And yet, in their own way, a precious image of an era that, in its own way, today represents an important chapter in Austrian film history.

Original title: Romantisches Steyrtal
Directed by: Harald Kicher
Country/year: Austria / 1965
Running time: 10’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Harald Kicher
Cinematography: Harald Kicher
Produced by: Various Authors

Info: the website of the Filmarchiv Austria