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ICH ODER DU

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by Dieter Berner

grade: 7.5

Realism, minimalism, music and even, from time to time, a welcome irony make Ich oder Du a captivating feature film both from the point of view of the story itself and from the point of view of its staging. A perfect picture of 1980s Vienna magically comes to life on the movie screen. At the Viennale 2023, as part of the Filmarchiv Austria’s retrospective Keine Angst.

Underground Vienna

One of the most important and significant films of the New Austrian Cinema was re-presented to the audience at the Viennale 2023, as part of the Filmarchiv Austria’s retrospective Keine Angst. We are talking about Ich oder Du, directed by Dieter Berner in 1984, as well as a true gem that shows us a cruel and often merciless Vienna, quite different from how we usually imagine it.

The story staged, then, is that of young Franz (played by Karl Kröpfl), who is about to inherit his father’s farm and who moves to Vienna in order to finally find his own place in the world. In the big city, the young man will meet the musician Robert (played by the famous singer and actor Hansi Lang) and his girlfriend Christine (Beate Finckh). Soon a love triangle will arise that will change their lives forever, especially at the moment when Christine discovers she is pregnant and Robert, increasingly addicted to drugs, even gets himself a gun. What will be their fate?

In Ich oder Du, along with the story of the three young protagonists, what most strikes our attention is, as already mentioned, precisely the image of Vienna in those years. On the movie screen, then, we see a gray, often dark Vienna, which almost conveys to us a feeling of unease, further accentuated by the squalid interiors of the houses. At the same time, however, it is an undoubtedly fascinating underground Vienna, in which inside nightclubs young singers entertain tired customers, which helps to give this interesting feature film by Dieter Berner an even greater charm.

And it is precisely music that plays an equally important role in Ich oder Du (suffice it to say that the retrospective within which the film was presented is entitled Keine Angst, just like a song sung by Lang himself on this particular occasion). Dieter Berner, for his part, opted for an extremely realistic and minimalist mise-en-scène, completely different both from what was being made in Austria in the past and from his own films made in more recent years.

Realism, minimalism, music and even, from time to time, a welcome irony make Ich oder Du a captivating feature film both from the point of view of the story itself and from the point of view of its staging. A perfect picture of 1980s Vienna magically comes to life on the movie screen. The story of Franz, Robert, and Christine is also the story of numerous other young people who were trying to find their way within a major European capital at that time in history, and it often has unexpected implications that can be very, very hurtful.

Original title: Ich oder Du
Directed by: Dieter Berner
Country/year: Austria / 1984
Running time: 92’
Genre: drama
Cast: Hansi Lang, Beate Finckh, Karl Kröpfl, Wolfgang Ambros, Hilde Berger, Rainer Egger, Bobby Prem, Franz Pusch, Helmut Vinaccia, Johannes Weidinger
Screenplay: Dieter Berner, Peter Mazzuchelli
Cinematography: Walter Kindler
Produced by: Satel Film, ORF

Info: the page of Ich oder Du on iMDb; the page of Ich oder Du on the website of the Viennale; the page of Ich oder Du on the website of the Austrian Film Commission