Poppitz is hilarious, irreverent, not afraid to highlight the habits and faults of the upper middle class and, in recounting poor Gerry’s misadventures, draws a comprehensive fresco of contemporary society. A superficial society that only cares about ‘appearances’ and considers luxury as the solution to any problem.
A relaxing holiday?
Harald Sicheritz is certainly one of the most appreciated directors when it comes to making funny comedies in Austria. Author of true cult films such as Mother’s Day (1994), Qualtingers Wien (1997) or Hinterholz 8 (1998), Sicheritz has not always satisfied audience and critics’ expectations (just think, for instance, of the recent Baumschlager, made in 2017). This, however, is not the case with the feature film Poppitz, made in 2002 and also considered one of the most hilarious comedies made in Austria in recent years.
The story staged, then, is that of car salesman Gerry Schartl (played by the excellent Roland Düringer), married to Lena (Marie Bäumer) and father of teenager Patrizia (Nora Heschl). One day, during a meeting, his boss dies suddenly and, during the funeral, Gerry notices that the son of the deceased is talking on the phone with a mysterious Mr. Poppitz. Who might this be? Perhaps his next boss? This thought will also torment poor Gerry during a holiday with his family. On this holiday, all sorts of things happen, and he even meets a charming man who flirts with his wife all the time and whose name is Poppitz. Will he be his future boss?
Poppitz is a bizarre journey into the mind of its protagonist. A journey in which Gerry not only imagines possible paradoxical situations, but in which also exhilarating habits of Germans and Austrians in a holiday village are depicted. And it is precisely the differences between the two peoples that Harald Sicheritz’s feature film mainly focuses on. The use of the Viennese dialect contrasts with standard German, different bracelets are handed out to tourists as they arrive, noisy families constantly film the most embarrassing moments with their cameras, lost suitcases seem never to be returned to their owners, teenagers try to arrange their first romantic dates away from the prying eyes of their parents, and phobias towards beetles inexplicably disappear.
All this happens in Poppitz. And Harald Sicheritz masterfully manages a rich and well-written screenplay, where a welcome black humour almost plays the leading role. Nobody is really guilty or innocent in Poppitz. The protagonist finds himself in often unimaginable situations, thinks of ‘extreme’ solutions, and at the end of the holiday is even more stressed than before. What if it was, in fact, all a product of his imagination? Harald Sicheritz confuses us, offers us many possible solutions and, together with us, has fun playing with his protagonists.
Dazzling lights, bright colours, kitschy clothes and embarrassing karaoke nights contrast well with the gloomy lights of an intimate funeral in a rainy Vienna or the cold atmosphere of a luxurious house. Poppitz is irreverent, unafraid to highlight the habits and faults of the upper middle class and, in recounting poor Gerry’s misadventures, draws a comprehensive fresco of contemporary society. A superficial society that only cares about ‘appearances’ and considers luxury as the solution to any problem.
All this, together with original and hilarious gags, makes Poppitz probably one of Harald Sicheritz’s best comedies. A film that is still impressed in the collective imagination today and is rightfully considered a classic of contemporary Austrian cinema.
Original title: Poppitz
Directed by: Harald Sicheritz
Country/year: Austria / 2002
Running time: 99’
Cast: Roland Düringer, Marie Bäumer, Nora Heschl, Kai Wiesinger, Reinhard Nowak, Oliver Korittke, Maria Hofstätter, Alfred Dorfer, Eva Billisich, Sabina Riedel, Viktoria Stifter, Karl Künstler, David Heissig, Maverick Quek, Antonia Cäcilia Holfelder, Özgür Özata, Sissi Wolf, Vinzenz Kiefer, Joseph Hannesschläger, Sun-Young Spatzek-Yun, Wolfgang Pissecker, Andrea Händler, Gerhard Greger, Erika Mottl, Peter Lerchbaumer
Screenplay: Roland Düringer, Harald Sicheritz
Cinematography: Helmut Pirnat
Produced by: Dor Film, Seven Islands Film