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COLD HELL

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by Stefan Ruzowitzky

grade: 7.5

An exciting and extremely topical thriller, Cold Hell is a much more complex and layered work than it may at first seem. Stefan Ruzowitzky has made not only a fresco of the city of Vienna in all its multiculturalism and controversial aspects, but also – and above all – a film that brings up complex and sensitive issues such as racism and patriarchy.

Alone against everyone

One of Austria’s most versatile directors, Stefan Ruzowitzky. Already winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for The Counterfeiters in 2008 (Austria’s first Academy Award), the Viennese filmmaker and screenwriter has, over the course of his long career, always related to all kinds of film genres, often also adopting directorial approaches that are new to him. Particularly interesting in this regard is the feature film Cold Hell, made in 2017, a captivating thriller set in cosmopolitan modern-day Vienna.

The story staged here, then, is that of Özge (played by Violetta Schurawlow), a young Viennese taxi driver of Turkish origin, who, by chance, witnesses a murder in the flat opposite her home. Following this event, her cousin Ranya (Verena Altenberger) is in turn killed, since the killer, intending to kill Özge as a witness to the murder, has mistaken her for the latter. Desperate for revenge and intent on protecting Ranya’s young daughter, the woman in turn tries to stop the murderer and, in the meantime, asks police inspector Christian Steiner (Tobias Moretti) for help, hiding in his apartment.

An adrenalin-fuelled and extremely topical thriller, Cold Hell is actually much more complex and layered than it may at first seem. Stefan Ruzowitzky, for his part, wanted to create not only a fresco of the city of Vienna in all its multiculturalism and its most controversial aspects, but also – and above all – a film that brings up complex and delicate issues such as racism and, last but not least, patriarchy, which still seems to play a central role in the society in which we live.

Özge is a postmodern heroine who finds herself practically alone fighting against those who hate women (and, specifically, Muslim women) so much that they want to burn them alive. “A Muslim would never accept murder. The killer is just a psychopathic maniac’. Resolute and resilient, she has never forgotten a past of family abuse, but, at the same time, she is ready to fight for those she considers her true family. Inspector Christian Steiner, for his part, is a man who is indeed a misogynist (very different from the legendary inspector Richard Moser, played by Moretti himself in Inspector Rex), but who, with time, is ready to reconsider some of his ideas and discover a much more human side of himself. Both are two characters apparently at the antipodes, two characters with a troubled past and practically alone, who nevertheless still believe in justice.

It is interesting to observe, in Cold Hell, how Stefan Ruzowitzky succeeded in staging universal themes within an almost US-style thriller, complete with thrilling car races, physical torture and underground chases. Vienna, for its part, proved to be the perfect location, cosmopolitan and very different from the stereotypical image many abroad have of it. Confident behind the camera, Ruzowitzky once again proved himself perfectly capable of reinventing himself and trying out new directions, thanks also to his recent overseas experiences. Cold Hell is an important and well-written feature film that skilfully avoids any rhetoric or cliché. Further proof of his great versatility.

Original title: Die Hölle – Inferno
Directed by: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Country/year: Austria, Germany / 2017
Running time: 92’
Genre: action, thriller, mistery, crime
Cast: Violetta Schurawlow, Tobias Moretti, Sammy Sheik, Friedrich von Thun, Robert Palfrader, Stefan Pohl, Verena Altenberger, Murathan Muslu, Elif Nisa Uyar, Deniz Cooper, Michaela Schausberger, Stephani Burkhard, Carola Pojer, Erika Deutinger, Gerda Drabek, Shamil Iliskhanov, Rainer Gradischnig, Susanne Gschwendtner, Quifu Yang-Moeller, Agnes Kiyomi Decker, Edis König, Ahmet Simsek, Manuel Sefciuc, Hans-Maria Darnov, Nursel Köse, Ercan Kesal, Christoph Bittenauer, Manfred Fuchs
Screenplay: Martin Ambrosch, Claudia Kolland
Cinematography: Benedict Neuenfels
Produced by: Allegro Film, The Amazing Film Company, ZDF

Info: the page of Cold Hell on iMDb; the page of Cold Hell on the website of the Österreichisches Filminstitut; the website of Cold Hell