by Mirjam Unger
In her important Fly away Home Mirjam Unger has made everything develop on two distinct levels: on the one hand there is war, poverty, the destroyed city and the army. On the other is Christl with her curiosity about the world and her joie de vivre.
How does war look through the eyes of a child? Can poverty, bombings, the impossibility of being with loved ones really take away the serenity of the youngsterst? For young and lively Christl, the world is still waiting to be discovered, to be observed through a coloured marble. An adventure to be lived to the full, even better if together with real friends. She, then, is the protagonist of the feature film Fly away Home, directed by Mirjam Unger in 2016 and based on the autobiographical novel Maikäfer, flieg! Mein Vater, das Kriegsende, Cohn und ich by Christine Nöstlinger.
We are in Vienna, in 1945. Christl (played by Zita Gaier) lives with her mother (Ursula Strauss), her older sister and her paternal grandparents. One day their house is destroyed by a bombing and the little girl, together with her family, must move to a large villa in the suburbs where her grandmother had previously worked as a maid. Her grandparents will remain in the city, while Christl’s father, a deserter who escaped from the lazaret, and the owner of the villa together with her son, a contemporary of the protagonist, soon arrive at the villa. Everything seems to be going well, until the Red Army bursts into town and some soldiers occupy the villa. Everyone is very frightened, but for Christl this represents an exciting novelty, made all the more special by the birth of an important friendship with Cohn (Konstantin Khabenskiy), the army cook, who is ostracised by his own fellow soldiers.
War and children. A combination, this one, that has often been dealt with in films. Yet the young protagonists have not always been able to see the beauty in such a dramatic situation. In Fly away home, however, everything is different. The young Christl never loses her optimism, her vivacity, her joie de vivre. Her only regret is having to live far away from her grandparents, of whom she is very fond. But what do people expect from her, in such a difficult period as the one everyone is experiencing? Perhaps only a new, unexpected friend could help her to understand many things. And from this important friendship they will both grow and feel less alone.
In this important Fly Away Home Mirjam Unger has made everything develop on two distinct levels: on the one hand there is war, poverty, the destroyed city and the army. The interiors of the houses are constantly dark, gloomy, sometimes even cramped. On the other is Christl with her curiosity about the world and her joie de vivre. Her world is cheerful, colourful. A world in which running around in the open air and observing new, interesting realities always offer new insights. Yet her path of growth can also often be painful.
Christine Nöstlinger’s coming-of-age novel has been perfectly rendered on screen by Mirjam Unger. The director, in fact, has avoided any clichés, has not sought a happy ending at all costs. And, as a result, her film has a contrasting effect on the viewer. While, in fact, certain events strike like a punch to the stomach, it is Christl’s optimism that takes centre stage and teaches us that even during dramatic events, something very, very special can happen.
Original title: Maikäfer, flieg
Directed by: Mirjam Unger
Country/year: Austria / 2016
Running time: 99’
Genre: biographical, drama
Cast: Zita Gaier, Ursula Strauss, Gerald Votava, Paula Brunner, Krista Stadler, Heinz Marecek, Bettina Mittendorfer, Lino Gaier, Konstantin Khabenskiy, Denis Burgazliev, Ivan Shvedoff, Markus Schwärzer, Lissy Pernthaler, Hilde Dalik, Lana-Mae Lopicic, Alexander Jagsch, Anita Zieher, Eugen Knecht
Screenplay: Sandra Bohle, Mirjam Unger
Cinematography: Eva Testor
Produced by: FilmVergnuegen, KGP Filmproduktion GmbH