Frau Maria and the Liquidation of Stastny Fabrics makes the few characters who appear on screen, their stories, the slowly emptying rooms and the hundreds of rolls of coloured fabrics its trademarks. And tender Mrs. Maria acts as precious witness of what has been.
In Maria’s world
Ms Maria Knoth moved to Vienna from Czechoslovakia in 1969. She worked all her life as a saleswoman in a famous textile factory: Stoffhandlung Stastny. This factory became, over the years, a real point of reference for textile professionals throughout Austria and its closure in 2018 signified effectively the end of an era. Witnessing this event, then, was filmmaker Caspar Pfaundler in his documentary Frau Maria and the Liquidation of Stastny Fabrics, where the figure of Maria almost plays the starring role.
The son of the factory’s founder chats with Maria and tells her some bizarre anecdotes, while the woman is busy arranging some rolls of fabric. The room in which the two find themselves is colourful and, at the same time, almost reminiscent of a room from another era. Or, better still, an environment in which time seems to have stood still. Mrs. Maria recounts her life and career to the camera. Only rarely do we hear the director’s voice asking her questions and interacting with her. Most of the time Caspar Pfaundler does not make his presence felt and simply observes what is happening around him, giving us living, pulsating images of a world that is about to vanish forever.
Frau Maria and the Liquidation of Stastny Fabrics makes the few characters that appear on screen, their stories, the slowly emptying rooms and the hundreds of rolls of coloured fabrics its trademarks. Nothing else is necessary to convey the idea of this small business located in Vienna’s first district. And tender Maria acts as precious witness of what has been.
Maria looks almost like a doll, she is always kind and helpful, she worked with passion and took care of the workshop and the fabrics as if everything really belonged to her. An old photograph of her as a young woman, riding a bicycle with her husband, is attached to a piece of fabric. A piece of cloth from the very dress Maria was wearing in the photo. The protagonist handles the piece of cloth delicately, and recommends that those who buy all the fabrics take good care of them. Nothing else is necessary for Frau Maria and the Liquidation of Stastny Fabrics to convey the essence of what the director wanted to tell us. Only towards the end the music accompany us while we see the now empty warehouses.
The power of the images, the colours of the fabrics slowly occupying an entire van and, finally, Maria about to close the factory doors for the last time speak for themselves. Caspar Pfaundler wanted to document all this to show us a fundamental chapter in the history of Vienna, which, however, few people really know about. Just as it was in the documentary A Millionaire’s Melancholy, also made in 2018. And thanks to his camera, many little realities come to life on the big screen and, just like so many pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, form a large fresco of the recent history of the beautiful Austrian capital.
Original title: Frau Maria und die Liquidierung der Stoffhandlung Stastny
Directed by: Caspar Pfaundler
Country/year: Austria / 2018
Running time: 25’
Screenplay: Caspar Pfaundler
Cinematography: Caspar Pfaundler
Produced by: Cinema Povero