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by Karl Köfinger

grade: 6.5

Karl Köfinger opted mainly for a classical mise-en-scene, in his Wiener Neustadt, Schneeberg, Rohrbach/Gebirge. As was the case with his earlier films, the director deliberately avoided any experimentation. Yet within this work, signs of his unique directorial approach are evident.

Travelling Viennese

The journeys of Austrian filmmaker and film pioneer Karl Köfinger in agile postal vehicles are memorable. Yes, because the filmmaker – now almost forgotten, but newly presented by the Filmarchiv Austria as part of the retrospective Kino auf Sommerfrische – tried his hand during his career at making a series of short documentary films, shot for the Austrian postal service, documenting the beauty of Austrian landscapes, presented here almost as postcards. And while these images succeeded in giving an idea of the value of these places, the same is true for Wiener Neustadt, Schneeberg, Rohrbach/Gebirge, made by Köfinger himself in 1927 and the first chapter of the series Wien – Mariazell und zurück.

The holiday destination Mariazell has always fascinated Austrian filmmakers. One need only think of the documentary Österreichische Alpenbahnen. Eine Fahrt nach Mariazell , made in 1910 – i.e. in the early years when films were also being made in Austria for the first time – in which we saw a camera – placed on a train – travelling along the road to the famous tourist resort.

Yet in this series of his, Karl Köfinger has done much more. Dividing his work into several chapters – including, precisely, this Wiener Neustadt, Schneeberg, Rohrbach/Gebirge – he has traversed the various stages of the journey in turn, pausing at each of them and providing the viewer with summary descriptions by means of short captions.

A map appears at the opening of the film. On it, the various stages covered by the filmmaker are gradually drawn. The film starts in Wiener Neustadt – located south of Vienna – and ends in the Austrian capital. Then, from then on, evocative images of landscapes, grazing animals, travellers, farmers and imposing mountains characterise the entire work, giving the viewer images of true beauty.

Karl Köfinger opted mainly for a classical staging in his Wiener Neustadt, Schneeberg, Rohrbach/Gebirge. As with his earlier films, the director has deliberately avoided any experimentation or directorial virtuosity. Yet within this work, there are clear signs of his unique directorial approach, particularly in terms of his tender, amused gaze and a certain, welcome underlying irony.

If we consider, at the same time, the rest of the world film production, we cannot fail to notice that in Austria – where the first films were made between 1906 and 1908, i.e. more than ten years after the invention of cinema itself – things were not always in step with the times. And, therefore, even a large part of the documentaries made in the 1920s (with the exception, of course, of some of the fiction feature films made in this same period), sometimes seem excessively rudimentary. This is also the case with this work by Köfinger, to which, however, one cannot fail to recognise an undoubted historical and artistic value. Precious testimony of an era in which the seventh art was slowly gaining a foothold and acquiring, year after year, an increasing importance.

Original title: Wiener Neustadt, Schneeberg, Rohrbach/Gebirge
Directed by: Karl Köfinger
Country/year: Austria / 1927
Running time: 3’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Karl Köfinger
Cinematography: Karl Köfinger
Produced by: Ing. Köfinger-Film

Info: the website of the Filmarchiv Austria