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FOUR IN A JEEP

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by Leopold Lindtberg

grade: 8

Four in a Jeep immediately stands out not only for an excellent script, but also for an approach reminiscent of both French noirs and Hollywood cinema of those years, for elegant and welcome irony and for an impossible love story. At the Diagonale’22.

Vienna or Graz?

A real gem of Austrian and world film history, Four in a Jeep. Yes, because, in fact, this important feature directed by Leopold Lindtberg in 1951 was first presented at the Cannes Film Festival, then at the Berlinale, where it won the much-coveted Golden Bear. On the occasion of the Diagonale’22, therefore, the film was re-presented to the audience as part of the retrospective Come and shoot in Thaliwood. Just as, in fact, the title of the retrospective suggests, Four in a Jeep was filmed in the Thalerhof film studios near Graz airport. These studios no longer exist and between 1947 and 1953 very few films were made, only seventeen to be exact. However, what is left today is something extremely rare and precious and at the Festival of Austrian Film it was possible to watch or re-watch some of the films made there.

Among the films produced in Thalerhof by the Alpenfilm-Austria-Gesellschaft, then, Four in a Jeep is the most famous worldwide, thanks not only to the major awards it has received at international festivals, but also to the special story set in an enthralling thriller full of twists and turns.

World War II has just ended. Vienna is occupied by the Allies and divided into four sectors: one sector is controlled by the Russians, one by the Americans, one by the French and one by the British. As far as the first district is concerned, however, all four nations are in control. So it so happens that four officers of four different nationalities find themselves driving around the city in a jeep, in order to find out what has happened to an Austrian prisoner of war, who has escaped from a Russian prison camp, presumably on his way to Vienna to join his wife Franziska (Viveca Lindfors).

A story full of adrenaline and mystery, then, that immediately becomes a universal message against all war, the cause of endless suffering, but also – as in this case – of the end of long-standing friendships between American and Russian soldiers. Four in a Jeep immediately stands out not only for an excellent screenplay, masterfully rendered on screen by shadowy scenes, chases and shootouts, but also for an approach reminiscent of both French noirs and Hollywood cinema of those years, for an elegant and welcome irony and for an impossible love story.

Noir atmospheres blend well with hilarious moments (just think, for example, of the character of Sergeant Pasture’s wife, played by Paulette Dubost, and when she tries to convince the Russian soldiers that no fugitive is hiding in her house) and all together they show us an unusual Vienna. A Vienna that has always been a crossroads of many cultures, where shadows prevail over light. A Vienna that is decidedly different from how we usually imagine it. And this is also because, in fact, the Vienna we see is not Vienna. Indeed, Four in a Jeep was actually filmed in Graz, near the aforementioned film studios. Graz was for a moment ‘disguised’ as Vienna and the Jakominiplatz, along with numerous other streets in the Styrian capital, became one of the main places frequented by the four soldiers.

Four in a Jeep, therefore, is for many reasons a film of great historical relevance. A sophisticated and well-structured feature film that represents a true gem in Austrian film history.

Original title: Die Vier im Jeep
Directed by: Leopold Lindtberg
Country/year: Austria, Switzerland / 1951
Running time: 102’
Genre: drama
Cast: Ralph Meeker, Viveca Lindfors, Yossi Yadin, Albert Dinan, Hans Putz, Michael Medwin, Paulette Dubost, Harry Hess, Eduard Loibner, Geraldine Katt
Screenplay: Richard Schweizer, Hans Sahl, Wilhelm Michael Treichlinger
Cinematography: Emil Berna
Produced by: Praesens-Film AG

Info: the page of Four in a Jeep on the website of the Diagonale; the page of Four in a Jeep on iMDb