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by David Wagner

grade: 8

Despite being a debut feature, Eismayer first and foremost denotes great directorial maturity and a never obvious ability to delve into the human soul, managing to capture every subtle nuance of the protagonists’ personalities. At the 79th Venice Film Festival, section Settimana della Critica.


There are realities that, unfortunately, until a few years ago were hardly accepted. Realities that were often kept hidden, but which, finally, after years, have come to light. Particularly noteworthy, in this regard, is the story of Deputy Lieutenant Charles Eismayer, who in 2014 made headlines in Austria and inspired the feature film Eismayer, directed by young director David Wagner and premiered at the 79th Venice Film Festival as part of the section Settimana della Critica.

Charles Eismayer (played by excellent Gerhard Liebmann), therefore, usually trains numerous recruits every year. He is known for his severity and his often brusque and inflexible ways. His surly character, however, serves him to keep a secret that could ruin his career and his family: he is gay. The moment young Mario Falak (Luka Dimić) joins his group, he immediately quarrels with him. Soon, however, a much deeper bond will develop between the two. What consequences will their relationship lead to?

Charles Eismayer’s life has always followed a pre-established script. Yet renouncing one’s nature and identity can lead to some pretty major consequences. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the protagonist falls ill with his stomach. Just as it is no coincidence that, especially with regard to the indoor scenes, the director has wisely opted for dark environments and weak lighting that deliberately convey a deep sense of claustrophobia. Yes, because, in fact, even though Eismayer is a debut feature, it denotes first and foremost a great directorial maturity and a never predictable ability to investigate the human soul, successfully capturing every subtlest nuance of the characters’ personalities.

The camera moves slowly inside an empty courtyard. Silence. Then, suddenly, the screams of the protagonist, who gives orders to his young recruits. Everything in Eismayer is taken to the extreme realism, nothing is softened or fictionalised in any way. None of the characters are presented to us as blameless heroes, but each of them, with all their flaws, secrets and weaknesses, seems more human than ever. At the same time, David Wagner skilfully avoids any rhetoric by staging primarily a troubled, difficult, almost impossible love, ensuring that objects, glances and intense close-ups can speak for themselves, communicating to us more than words can.

There is a precise moment in Eismayer that deserves special attention. The moment when the protagonist, after revealing to his wife that he is gay and breaking up with her, meets his son in the park. “What’s wrong with having a friend? I have many at school too. What is the name of your new friend?” the child asks his father. And it is often the clear gaze of a child the right solution to accept one another and to finally live a happy life. In Eismayer, therefore, David Wagner has tried to maintain the same clear gaze throughout the film. Thanks to this approach, he has created an honest and sincere feature film, in which the magnetic protagonists immediately seem more alive than ever.

Original title: Eismayer
Directed by: David Wagner
Country/year: Austria / 2022
Running time: 87’
Genre: war, drama
Cast: Gerhard Liebmann, Luka Dimic, Julia Koschitz, Anton Noori, Karl Fischer, Christopher Schärf, Lion Tatzber, Lukas Johne, Matthias Hack, Harry Lampl, Matthias Böhm, Thomas Momcinovic, Jagesberger Joshua, Paul Winkler, Thomas Otrok, Adriano Bonamore, Alexander Srtschin, Stan Steinbichler, Lloyd Lynch, Norbert Prammer, Rina Juniku, Roswitha Soukup, Johann Bednar, Friedrich Weissenbeck
Screenplay: David Wagner
Cinematography: Serafin Spitzer
Produced by: Golden Girls Filmproduktion

Info: the page of Eismayer on iMDb; the page of Eismayer on the website of the Austrian Film Commission; the page of Eismayer on the website of the Österreichisches Filminstitut; the page of Eismayer on the website of the Settimana Internazionale della Critica