RAFFL

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by Christian Berger

grade: 7.5

Christian Berger stages important moral questions without ever being judgmental. And his Raffl can deservedly be described as a living, pulsating feature film, a simple and complex feature film at the same time. A timeless film.

Guilt

The figure of the ‘Tyrolean Judas’ has been passed down over the years until it became legendary and has been depicted and elaborated on in various novels and feature films. Yes, because the Tyrolean Franz Raffl (1775 – 1830), known for having betrayed a subversive hiding in his village at the time of the Napoleonic empire for money, is still today a controversial character, incredibly capable of giving rise to the most disparate debates. And so, in 1984, director of photography Christian Berger decided to make his debut as a director by making his feature film Raffl, which premiered at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival – section Quinzaine des Réalisateurs.

Franz Raffl (played by Lois Weinberger) is a man in serious financial difficulty. After discovering the hiding place of Andreas Hofer, who has always fought for freedom, he decides to denounce him to the French, hoping to finally lead a good life. His action, however, will cost him dearly and the man – now marginalised by society – will be forced to leave his country forever.

Raffl is undoubtedly an interesting debut. In staging the events of the protagonist, then, Christian Berger opted for the most essential directorial approach possible, clearly inspired by the cinema of Robert Bresson, but also proving to be perfectly in step with the times concerning Austrian cinema of the time. Yes, because, in fact, for several years now there had been attempts to give Austrian cinema a totally new character, which would differentiate the feature films shot from the early 1970s onwards from what had been made from around the 1930s until after World War II. Consequently, numerous filmmakers made a series of feature films in which an essential and extremely realistic directing style treasured the influences of French Poetic Realism and, above all, Italian Neorealism.

Christian Berger, who for most of his career has worked – and continues to work – as a director of photography, is therefore one of the authors who has been most inspired by these film movements, and his Raffl fits perfectly into a context from which a strong, very strong desire for novelty is above all evident. The director, therefore, simply lets the images speak for themselves, without the need for too much dialogue or excessive music. The wide open, snow-covered Tyrolean spaces, then, act as additional protagonists and contrast strongly with the baroque interiors in which the French delegates live.

Raffl is essentially a lonely man, who has often lived on the margins of society and who, following his betrayal, is definitively rejected by everyone. Could a new job and a new life ever restore his dignity? The image of a jacket and a shirt placed on a chair is almost reminiscent of a mannequin devoid of soul and of any trace of humanity and simply speaks for itself. Christian Berger, for his part, stages important moral questions without ever being judgmental. And his Raffl can deservedly be described as a living, pulsating feature film, a simple and complex feature film at the same time. A timeless film.

Original title: Raffl
Directed by: Christian Berger
Country/year: Austria / 1984
Running time: 95’
Genre: biographical, drama, historical
Cast: Lois Weinberger, Dietmar Schönherr, Barbara Weber, Barbara Viertl, Herbert Rohm, Lothar Dellago, Arthur Brauss, Franz Mössmer, Isolde Ferlesch, Rupert Covi, Dietmar Mössmer, Franz Pienz, Bert Breit, Leticia Berger
Screenplay: Christian Berger, Markus Heltschl
Cinematography: Christian Berger
Produced by: Christian Berger Film

Info: the page of Raffl on iMDb; the page of Raffl on the website of the Austrian Film Commission; the website of Christian Berger