CHASING THE LINE

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by Andreas Schmied

grade: 6.5

Chasing the Line focuses entirely on its charismatic protagonist – the legendary Austrian ski champion Franz Klammer – and, at the same time, provides an exhaustive portrait of the sport world and all its most controversial aspects.

The story of a champion

Many people remember the legendary Austrian ski champion Franz Klammer. Yes, because the Olympic champion from Mooswald, who during his brilliant career also won particular sympathy from audiences all over the world, is still considered the strongest downhill racer of all time. A biopic focusing on him, therefore, is undoubtedly an exciting challenge. Director Andreas Schmied has thought of this with his Chasing the Line, which focuses mainly on Klammer’s time during the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck.

Franz Klammer (played by Julian Waldner) is twenty-two years old and is about to train with his team for the Winter Olympics. In the days immediately preceding the competitions, numerous demands from sponsors and his coach, however, will often put him in crisis. His girlfriend Eva (Valerie Huber), however, will always be there to support him at all times.

Chasing the Line, then, focuses entirely on its charismatic protagonist and, at the same time, draws an exhaustive fresco of the sport world and all its most controversial aspects. The drama of the athlete, his doubts, fears and insecurities are faithfully filmed by Schmied’s camera and excellently portrayed by Waldner, although the film’s real peculiarity are the scenes concerning the race in which the protagonist takes part. Franz Klammer’s skis travel fast over the snow, the camera often shows us this through point of view shots, dizzying jumps keep us in suspense, and it all almost reminds us of a rollercoaster ride. Adrenalin-fuelled scenes, well supported and enriched by an alternating montage that shows us now Eva intent on watching the competition, now Klammer’s own family reunited with friends and acquaintances in front of the TV.

Then, of course, there is also love. To the relationship between Franz and Eva Andreas Schmied pays particular attention. A tender, sincere love story, which – as we know and as we are shown – continues to this day. The phone calls between the two, their meeting in Innsbruck, the moment when the couple simply relaxes and confides in each other before a piece of Cremeschnitte form the leitmotif of the entire feature film. Yet, unfortunately, it all occasionally comes across as excessive, especially when the dialogue becomes increasingly corny and is accompanied by an almost omnipresent music.

If, therefore, Chasing the Line is very well shot at certain moments, it often gets overwhelmed by a dangerous rhetoric, as often happens in biopics or when staging certain sporting feats. Andreas Schmied undoubtedly succeeds in gaining the viewer’s attention and making us feel the character of Franz Klammer incredibly close, but at the same time he fails to avoid certain stylistic clichés. Especially when we see champion Franz Klammer today visiting his family with his wife Eva.

Original title: Klammer
Directed by: Andreas Schmied
Country/year: Austria / 2021
Running time: 100’
Genre: biographical, drama, sport
Cast: Julian Waldner, Valerie Huber, Wolfgang Oliver, Harry Lampl, Noah Perktold, Benedikt Kalcher, Doris Dexl, Otto Jankovich, Raphael Nicholas, Robert Reinagl, Johannes Rhomberg, Fabian Schiffkorn, Wiltrud Schreiner, Alexander Stecher, Raphaël Tschudi, Marii Weichsler, Markus Zett
Screenplay: Andreas Schmied, Elisabeth Schmied
Cinematography: Xiaosu Han, Andreas Thalhammer
Produced by: Epo-Film, Samsara Filmproduktion, Sabotage Films Vienna

Info: the page of Chasing the Line on iMDb; the page of Chasing the Line on the website of the Austrian Film Commission