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by Andreas Schmied

grade: 5.5

Head over Heels, the newest film by director and screenwriter Andreas Schmied, author of, among others, the thrilling Chasing the Line, is the classic light comedy, lacking nothing to laugh at but where one knows exactly where it is getting at. An honest film for a classic rainy Sunday afternoon.

Love at first sight

Head over Heels, the newest feature by versatile Andreas Schmied, author of, among others, the thrilling Chasing the Line, stages the story of Ella Lannauer (played by elegant Miriam Fussenegger), heiress of a corrupt banking empire, who on her wedding day decides to rebel and run away. Everything as expected. In order to do so, she decides to hide herself in the very Bentley that former thief Ritchie (the multi-talented Otto Jaus) will attempt to steal on behalf of ‘Uncle’ Siggi, a character as sinister as his whispered speech. The highly unusual pair, moved by different but converging feelings of revenge, will try to put into practice a plan that is well within their grasp.

Based on an enjoyable humour made up of witty one-liners and hilarious slapstick gags, this is more like a slapstick comedy than a comedy of errors: each of the characters is always missing something. From the wealthy Ella, who has attended all the available university courses without concluding anything concrete, to Commissioner Lippowitz, certainly smart but hated by the entire district, the rhythm of Head over Heels proceeds nonetheless quickly for the first hour, slowing down heavily towards the final showdown.

The gestures and mimicry of the actors, all of whom have a theatrical background, are fundamentally the cornerstones, the flagship of Head over Heels, and the enjoyment derived from not wanting to miss a single gag makes one’s eyes never stop watching. Point in favour for our Andreas Schmied.

Apropos of points in favour: the choice of the title is particularly interesting. Head over Heels is, allegorically, about falling in love hastily. And it is precisely this great haste that can be perceived in almost all the film’s scenes, which are not always well thought-out but often spectacularly powerful. Of course, the main reference is to the inevitable love at first sight between the two protagonists, but, in fact, it would seem more interesting to focus on the dynamics between other characters. One of these is the relationship between the troublemaker Inspector Fichtl (a very good Patrick Seletzky) and the incorruptible Commissioner Lippowitz (the talented Ulrike Beimpold). Odd but effective sidekick him, unlikeable and loyal to the duty that the position requires her, they form together an “unintentional” comic couple like Laurel and Hardy, powerful and hilarious in its simple intelligence, very physical and gestural. A must-see.

Overall, the film debut of Jaus, one half of the musical duo Pizzerra & Jaus, is a fine interplay of fast-paced turns and silent film-inspired situations. The skill of the performers, from Fussenegger, at ease in the role of the prissy daughter, to the boss Juergen Maurer, funny and ruthless at the same time, gives Head over Heels, an otherwise simple film, some verve.

Original title: Hals über Kopf
Directed by: Andreas Schmied
Country/year: Austria / 2023
Running time: 84’
Genre: comedy, romance
Cast: Miriam Fussenegger, Otto Jaus, Stefan Pohl, August Zirner, Monica Reyes, Ulrike Beimpold, Patrick Seletzky, Clemens Berndorff, Mathilde Graf, Clemens Moschner, Alexander Stecher
Screenplay: Andreas Schmied
Cinematography: Xiaosu Han
Produced by: Aichholzer Filmproduktion

Info: the page of Head over Heels on iMDb; the page of Head over Heels on the website of the Austrian Film Commission; the page of Head over Heels on the website of the Österreichisches Filminstitut