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by Hans Otto Löwenstein

grade: 7

Der Glücksschneider is a real gem within Austrian cinema. A short film that, while treasuring what was made in the meantime in the rest of the world (and, specifically, American slapstick comedies), nevertheless seeks its own way.

A new life?

‘Money does not make you happy’. Unfortunately, very few people agree with this saying. But if being very rich can undoubtedly lead to a comfortable life where luxury and wealth are commonplace, it is also true that becoming rich from one day to the next can really make one lose one’s mind. Poor Schramek (played by Rudolf Schildkraut), protagonist of the comedy Der Glücksschneider, directed in 1916 by Hans Otto Löwenstein (one of the most important pioneers of Austrian cinema), knows something about this.

Der Glücksschneider is a real gem within Austrian cinema. If we think, in fact, that the first films began to be produced in Austria only about ten years earlier, we realise how this short film, while treasuring what had been made in the meantime in the rest of the world (and, specifically, in American slapstick comedies), nevertheless seeks its own way, depicting the customs (but also attitudes towards life that can be hilarious at times) of the Viennese.

As already mentioned, therefore, the story staged in Der Glücksschneider is that of the tailor Schramek, who is used to working day and night in his small shop together with his young assistant (Joseph Schildkraut, Rudolf’s own son), who often makes fun of him. Schramek has many debts and a long-standing relationship with the cook Amalia (Mizzi Griebl), but dreams of one day being able to change his life. His dream finally seems to come true when he wins the lottery. In this way he can pay off all his debts. Thus Schramek leaves his shop and starts a relationship with young Mela (Mela Schwarz), who, however, is already engaged to Alfred. To what problems will this lead? How long will this new life of horse racing and theatre evenings last?

The directorial approach adopted by Hans Otto Löwenstein in Der Glücksschneider is overall simple and rudimentary: A series of fixed shots, without any camera movement, show us each time the adventures and misadventures of our Schramek. No close-ups, no details. Yet, in their simplicity, the images represent well the contrast between the simplicity of the protagonist’s small shop and the glitz of the upper-class world. Similarly, the habits of the Viennese are described with care and humour, but also observed with an affectionate gaze. Just as when we see Schramek going to the Heurige with his Amalia.

Der Glücksschneider, therefore, although excessively simple, is nevertheless a successful film overall. What is particularly interesting in this regard, however, is something else: why is it that, despite the fact that the film was made in 1916, i.e. precisely during World War I, no mention is made of the war itself? Simple: according to precise directives, the image of an Austria in which prosperity was commonplace had to be conveyed to the world anyway. And also for this reason, therefore, this little film is all the more interesting from a historical point of view. A distorted image of illusorily happy times of which, however, many details are now known.

Original title: Der Glücksschneider
Directed by: Hans Otto Löwenstein
Country/year: Austria / 1916
Running time: 32’
Genre: comedy
Cast: Josef Schildkraut, Mizzi Griebl, Mela Schwarz, Rudolf Schildkraut
Screenplay: Felix Salten
Cinematography: Hans Otto Löwenstein
Produced by: Philipp und Preßburger Film

Info: the page of Der Glücksschneider on iMDb; the page of Der Glücksschneider on