by Chris Raiber
First Snow of Summer, while suffering from excessive rhetoric and scarce originality and relying excessively on emotionality, undoubtedly can be easily enjoyed and, impeccable in its aesthetics, attempts in its own way to make its mark on the national film scene. At the Diagonale’23.
Away from the sunlight
In the underground of Vienna, there is a world that few people know about. A world that almost seems to belong to a dimension of its own, in which people work, meet, get to know one another and fall in love. This is the world in which Alexander (played by Thomas Prenn) lives, who goes to an underground station every day to work. This is the singular world told by director Chris Raiber in his feature film First Snow of Summer, presented as part of the programme of the Diagonale’23.
Alexander, therefore, has always lived with his grandmother (Margarethe Tiesel). When he was a child, he promised that he would never fall in love, since he absolutely did not want to follow the example of his father, who moved into an underground tunnel after the death of his wife, so that he could be as close as possible to his beloved. Alexander’s promise, however, may soon be broken when he meets Caro (Verena Altenberger), a young woman who works in a hat shop in his very own underground station. Which direction will his life take from now on?
What immediately strikes one when watching First Snow of Summer is a directorial approach that is reminiscent of the cinema of Wes Anderson or Jean-Pierre Jeunet, in which atmospheres that almost seem to recall a fairy-tale world – complete with a voice-over narrating the protagonists’ adventures – maintain a certain detachment from the events staged, also giving the whole thing a pleasant lightness. Anderson, Jeunet, but also, with regard to certain narrative implications, Good Bye, Lenin! (Wolfgang Becker, 2003). The story of Alexander and Caro, for its part, while developing in a rather predictable way, is enriched by decidedly evocative moments, such as the scene in which the two protagonists – when the underground is now closed – watch a film on one of the screens along the platform together with a guard working with them.
Pastel-coloured cinematography and an almost omnipresent soundtrack provide a counterpoint to the drama of the events. And it works, although certain choices can sometimes be overly contrived. Verena Altenberger and Thomas Prenn, for their part, bring their characters alive and vibrant on screen, without ever being excessive or over the top, proving to be the real highlight – along with other important acting performances – of this feature film by Chris Raiber. First Snow of Summer, while suffering from excessive rhetoric and a lack of originality and relying too much on emotionality, undoubtedly can be easily enjoyed and, impeccable in its aesthetics, attempts in its own way to leave its mark on the national film scene.
Original title: Sterne unter der Stadt
Directed by: Chris Raiber
Country/year: Austria / 2022
Running time: 100’
Genre: drama, romance
Cast: Verena Altenberger, Thomas Prenn, Margarethe Tiesel, Harald Windisch, Simon Hatzl, Philipp Auer, Selina Graf, Gianna Charles, Matteo Di Sapia, Rina Juniku, Fanny Herzog, Peter Knaack, Erwin Leder, Inge Maux, Eva Mayer, Michael Mendl, Sebastian Rudolph, Holger Schober
Screenplay: Chris Raiber
Cinematography: Mario Minichmayr
Produced by: Interspot Film