This is a call for papers to be published in Austrian Studies 33, which will have the title Austria and Film in the Twenty-First Century, and will be edited by Katya Krylova and Dora Osborne.
Nearly twenty years after Dennis Lim, writing in The New York Times, labelled Austria “the world capital of feel-bad cinema,” the accuracy of this dubious accolade is still a matter for debate. More recent work by Austria’s best-known contemporary auteur directors, Michael Haneke and Ulrich Seidl, continues to make for uncomfortable viewing. At the sight of crooner Richie Bravo in Seidl’s Rimini (2022) audiences are once again left squirming, but the controversy surrounding the production of the second part of his diptych, Sparta (2023), has caused this sense of unease to escape the control of his films. Meanwhile, in the work of a younger generation of filmmakers, such as Kurdwin Ayub’s Sonne (2022), Arman T. Riahi’s Die Migrantigen (2017), or Marie Kreutzer’s Was hat uns bloß so ruiniert (2016), the social and political critique dominant in the New Austrian Film that emerged in the 1980s (Dassanowsky 2011), and to which Seidl’s work has contributed to an extreme degree, is notably paired with lightness and humour.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the growing number of documentaries showing the effects of climate change and human impacts on the environment has done little to challenge the “feel-bad” label. Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s films on these topics have come to dominate, both in number and visual force; following Homo Sapiens (2016), Erde (2019) and Matter out of Place (2022), he is now working on Melt, which focuses on the loss of glacial environments and rising sea levels. In their focus on the impact of global capital around the world, however, the sense of unease that these documentaries produce is arguably no longer attached to a specific nation or national sensibility. Geyrhalter is not only hugely influential as a director, but also as a producer. His production company Nikolaus Geyrhalter Films (NGF) has a prolific output, especially of documentaries. Focusing on biopolitical as well as ecological concerns, these films, together with Geyrhalter’s own, might comprise something like a posthuman Austrian cinema.
The concerns and scope of these documentaries would seem to contrast starkly with a number of recent feature films that focus on Austrian history and culture (especially literature) and that have found both national and international resonance. The perennially popular Sisi has been refashioned for contemporary audiences in the hugely successful German Netflix series, Die Kaiserin, Marie Kreutzer’s Corsage (2022) and Frauke Finsterwalder’s Sissi und Ich (2023), and Austrian cultural figures feature in a cluster of biopics: Maria Schrader’s Vor der Morgenröte (2016), Dieter Berner’s Alma & Oskar (2022) and Margarethe von Trotta’s Ingeborg Bachmann – Reise in die Wüste (2023). Literary adaptions also remain popular – e.g. Julian Pölsler’s film versions of Marlen Haushofer’s Die Wand (2011) and Wir töten Stella (2017), and Barbara Albert’s 2023 adaptation of Julia Franck’s bestseller Die Mittagsfrau. If some of these productions suggest a resurgence of traditional genres (against the critical impetus of the New Austrian Cinema), Ruth Beckermann’s Die Geträumten (2016) and Mutzenbacher (2022), meanwhile, offer highly innovative cinematic engagements with literary icons and iconic literary texts.
For Volume 33 of Austrian Studies (2025) we invite proposals for articles on the rich and multifaceted landscape of Austrian film in the twenty-first century, as well as on cinematic images of Austria produced by contemporary filmmakers more broadly. Topics might include but are not limited to:
- Feel-bad/feel-good cinema
- New directors and/against the influence of more established figures (e.g. Ulrich Seidl, Michael Haneke)
- Ecocritical cinema
- Posthuman cinema
- Transnationalism and globalisation
- Film and Austrian Literature
- Sisi reimagined
Proposals (of circa 250 words) should be sent to Dr Katya Krylova (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr Dora Osborne (email@example.com) by 1 December 2023. It is anticipated that the deadline for completed articles will be July 2024.