SARGNAGEL

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by Sabine Hiebler and Gerhard Ertl

grade: 6

In the film Sargnagel – directed by Sabine Hiebler and Gerhard Ertl – one never knows where fiction ends and reality begins. Is it simply a feature film? A documentary? Probably both. Or perhaps none of the two? At the Diagonale 2021.

A new Bridget Jones?

The writer and cartoonist Stefanie Sargnagel has for a long time now become very popular also abroad. Always interested in topics such as society and politics – with a strongly satirical outlook – Stefanie Sargnagel could be the perfect protagonist for a film. And what if the project actually came to fruition? No sooner said than done. Stefanie Sargnagel’s book Fitness is finally about to be filmed. But what will be the main production difficulties? In the film Sargnagel – directed by Sabine Hiebler and Gerhard Ertl and premiered at the Diagonale 2021 – you never know where fiction ends and reality begins. Is it just a feature film? A documentary? Probably both. Or perhaps none of the two?

Stefanie Sargnagel is an ordinary young woman. She has a boyfriend, her house is full of empty beer bottles, she dislikes business trips and prefers to spend her evenings in a pub with her best friend (played by an extraordinary Hilde Dalik). Yet there are those who try to turn her into a sort of Austrian Bridget Jones during the making of the film. And so, between the desire to remain herself and established actresses who try to “steal her identity”, the young woman will (perhaps) manage to find the right solution to turn her book into images on the big screen.

Sargnagel is like a rollercoaster ride. An exhilarating journey into the world of the young writer with the red cap who, in this case, finds herself in a completely unexpected situation. Sabine Hiebler and Gerhard Ertl thus wanted to stage not only the life of the protagonist, but also the mechanisms of the show business, taking certain characters to the extreme – among whom the director Michael Ostrowski and the actress Hilde Dalik, here in a double role, are particularly noteworthy – in order to make them seem almost caricatures.

This is undoubtedly an interesting operation: the audience immediately becomes fond of this unusual image of Stefanie Sargnagel, laughs, has fun, enjoys looking behind the scenes to discover how certain realities work. The two directors, on the other hand, happily peep in front of the camera, show us the mechanisms of cinema in their true nature, have fun making a sort of postmodern Day for Night. Yet, something is not convincing. At times, the film seems overly contrived, despite almost having the form of a documentary: some gags have been seen over and over again and seem too reminiscent of some American sitcoms. The end result is a pleasant, undoubtedly funny film, which, however, does not make the most of its hybrid form and ends up losing personality. And despite the interesting idea, despite the talent of the cast, success is mainly due to Stefanie Sargnagel’s charisma. It is up to her to make the film work. A task she accomplished to perfection.

Original title: Sargnagel
Directed by: Sabine Hiebler, Gerhard Ertl
Country/year: Austria / 2021
Running time: 98’
Genre: comedy, biographical
Cast: Stefanie Sargnagel, Michael Ostrowski, Hilde Dalik, Thomas Gratzer, David Scheid, Alexander Jagsch, Voodoo Jürgens, Margarethe Tiesel, Christoph Krutzler
Screenplay: Sabine Hiebler, Gerhard Ertl
Cinematography: Anna Hawliczek, Carolina Steinbrecher
Produced by: Golden Girls Filmproduktion, Hiebler-Ertl-Film

Info: the page of Sargnagel on the website of the Diagonale; the page of Sargnagel on the website of the Austrian Film Commission