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by Karl Markovics

grade: 7

Das Schweigen der Esel, while boasting a tension-filled narrative development, further enhanced by a sophisticated parallel editing, also presents a touch of welcome, typically Austrian irony, as well as, of course, numerous references to feature films of the past, as well as to literary classics.

The cat, the rooster, the dog and the donkey

Many still remember the crazy detective Jonas Horak (played by Karl Markovics), protagonist of the feature film Das letzte Problem, directed by Markovics himself and part of the ORF Landkrimi series. Yes, because, in fact, this detective, in his clever madness, was so well characterised as to have all the credentials to remain in the memory of viewers for a long, long time. It is no coincidence, then, that Karl Markovics decided to reprise this figure in a further feature film, also part of the aforementioned series. And so, in Das Schweigen der Esel, made in 2023, we find Horak himself in an entirely new context, just a couple of years after his adventure in Das letzte Problem.

After his arrest, therefore, Jonas Horak finds himself in a psychiatric hospital. Here, however, he finally seems to have found his own balance, discovering a great passion for gardening and writing a book about all the possible criminal cases within the tales of the Brothers Grimm. His everyday life, however, is ‘disturbed’ when two women are mysteriously murdered: a woman swimming in a swimming pool (whose murder was witnessed by a cat) and a peasant woman found decapitated in her house (who lived with a rooster). Who could have committed such crimes? Young inspector Sophie Landner (Julia Koch), who in Das letzte Problem had contributed to Horak’s arrest, will ask Horak for help in solving the case.

As we can already guess from the title, Das Schweigen der Esel (‘the silence of the donkeys’) is clearly based on the cult film The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991). Here, too, we see as protagonist a young policewoman who has to cooperate with a patient in a psychiatric hospital. And yet, compared to Demme’s film, this feature film, while boasting a narrative development full of tension, further enhanced by a sophisticated parallel editing that shows us, from time to time, the two protagonists while, each in their own environment, they perform almost the same actions, also presents a touch of typically Austrian welcome irony, in addition, of course, to numerous references to feature films of the past (already in the first feature film of the series, Markovics had recalled the master Alfred Hitchcock and, specifically, his Psycho, continuing to refer to it on this occasion as well), as well as to literary classics (The Bremen Town Musicians by the Brothers Grimm plays a central role in this regard).

Particularly magnetic is the character of Jonas Horak (hilarious are the scenes in which we see him outside the hospital dressed as a woman, so as not to be recognised), who, after the two murders, again begins to ‘see’ his imaginary assistant Freitag (Stefan Pohl) and who in the patient Kotrusek (an always excellent Gerhard Liebmann) might find a new partner in adventure. Karl Markovics, therefore, immediately recognised the potential of his character, to the point of wanting to personally take charge of the screenplay in Das Schweigen der Esel. Is this, perhaps, another figure destined to become legendary, just as Ernst Stockinger (played by Markovics himself) became legendary in Inspector Rex? It is probably still too early to know.

Original title: Das Schweigen der Esel
Directed by: Karl Markovics
Country/year: Austria / 2023
Running time: 88’
Genre: comedy, mistery
Cast: Karl Markovics, Julia Koch, Caroline Frank, Gerhard Liebmann, Valentin Sottopietra, Klaus Windisch, Tobias Fend, Julian Marcel Sark, Stefan Pohl, Konstanze Dutzi, Rüdiger Wenk
Screenplay: Karl Markovics
Cinematography: Leena Koppe
Produced by: ARTE, ORF, Superfilm

Info: the page of Das Schweigen der Esel on iMDb; the page of Das Schweigen der Esel on the website of the Superfilm