The Grazer Stadtfilm is a fundamental work regarding film history in Styria. The film pioneer Fritz Muchitsch created a monumental work, which in turn also provided an important chapter in the history of the Graz.
From the Grazer Freilichtspiele to the Grazer Stadtfilm
Styria and, specifically, the city of Graz, have been the focus of attention for many filmmakers since the origins of cinema, when, somewhat later than in the rest of the world, the first films were being made in Austria. In this regard, particularly noteworthy – although nowadays forgotten by many – is the figure of Fritz Muchitsch, an important pioneer of Austrian cinema who really did a lot for his native Graz during his lifetime.
Fritz Muchitsch – along with many other pioneers like him – was recently remembered on the occasion of the exhibition Film und Kino in der Steiermark at the Museum Johanneum in Graz, in which all the most important stages of film history in Styria are retraced, along with a special focus on the most significant personalities.
Muchitsch, therefore, had from the outset a special bond with Graz. Son of Vinzenz Muchitsch, the mayor of the city for many years, he immediately showed a strong interest in the newborn film art, ever since the first films of the Lumière brothers or some films produced by the “rival” French production company Pathé were shown for the first time in Graz as well. Not many years passed, however, until the first films were also finally made in Austria. And in this respect, Fritz Muchitsch also made a fundamental contribution.
After founding his own production company, the Werbelicht, Muchitsch – who in the meantime also ran an open-air cinema, the Grazer Freilichtspiele, in which he used to project films from the attic of the Hotel Wiesler directly onto a large screen right on the river Mur – began to make numerous films from the 1920s onwards, mainly for the municipality of Graz. Particularly noteworthy among these films is the Grazer Stadtfilm, made around 1928, an important project showing every aspect of Graz city life. The history of this film, however, was not particularly happy. After an initial public screening – where important city authorities were also present – the film – initially about 6,000 metres long – was stored in its own container, but for a long time it was considered lost.
It is still unclear how it was found and how it was divided into numerous parts, the fact remains that many years later (specifically in 1986), Fritz Muchitsch himself accidentally found some parts of his film in a flea market. After buying them, he donated them to the Multimedialen Sammlungen, so that his work could be guaranteed a certain survival. The film was thus subsequently restored by the Filmarchiv Austria and at the Museum Johanneum in Graz can finally be partially watched.
The Grazer Stadtfilm is, therefore, a fundamental work in the history of film in Styria. Fritz Muchitsch created a monumental work, which in turn also constitutes an important chapter in the history of Graz. A city that, thanks to important pioneers of film history like Muchitsch, was immediately able to enjoy this exciting new invention.