Metropole’s 10 Films You Shouldn’t Miss at the Viennale 2019

Drawing over 93,000 cinephiles over two weeks, the Viennale remains Austria’s premier film festival with over 300 features, documentaries and shorts.

Drawing over 93,000 cinephiles over two weeks, the Viennale remains Austria’s premier film festival and a veritable smorgasbord for film buffs, with over 300 features, documentaries and shorts as well as numerous concerts, parties and talks. With a wide array of themes, styles and non-western perspectives, the vast selection can be daunting – but never fear, for here are Metropole’s top 10 films at the Viennale! 

  1. Tommaso

Abel Ferrara (IT/GB/US/GR) 2019, subtitled in German. Oct 27, 13:00, Urania & Oct 28, 18:00, Gartenbaukino

Renowned director (and Viennale regular) Abel Ferrara teams up with frequent collaborator Willem Dafoe for a loosely autobiographical picture; the titular Tommaso (Dafoe) is an American indie filmmaker and recovering addict living in Rome with his much-younger wife and 3-year old daughter. As he tries to learn Italian, write a screenplay and enjoy life as an expat, his relationship with his spouse becomes increasingly strained, making Tommaso’s search for meaning and truth while remaining sober all the more intense.

  1. Space Dogs

Elsa Kremser, Levin Peter (AT/DE) 2019, subtitled in German/English. Oct 25, 20:30, Stadtkino (German Subtitles) & Oct 27, 16:00, Urania (English subtitles)

Juxtaposing stray dogs in Moscow with footage of their famous forebears – the dogs, chimpanzees and turtles of the Soviet space program – this documentary takes an unorthodox, absurdist approach, reimagining the canine struggle for survival as imbibed with the spirit of the final frontier.

  1. Zombi Child

Bertrand Bonello (FR) 2019, subtitled in German/English. Oct 30, 20:15, Gartenbaukino (German subtitles) & Nov 1, 23:30, Gartenbaukino (English subtitles)

A thinking man’s horror film, director Bertrand Bonello (Saint Laurent) meditates on post-colonialism, identity and belonging with this tale of a sorority at a French elite all-girls school that invites the new girl from Haiti to join, appropriating her culture and getting more than they bargained for.

  1. Robolove

Maria Arlamovsky (AT) 2019, subtitled in German/English. Nov 5, 20:30, Stadtkino (German subtitles) & Nov 6, 11:00, Metro Kino (English subtitles)

As technological progress marches on, the question of what makes us human becomes less and less theoretical. This documentary wrestles with such issues by visiting the cutting edge of increasingly life-like robotics and their creators, leaving judgment up to the Viennale viewer.

  1. Atlantis

Valentyn Vasyanovych (UA) 2019, subtitled in English. Nov 3, 17:00, Stadtkino & Nov 4, 21:00 Urania

Set in the near future, Valentyn Vasyanovych’s highly stylized, dystopian vision sees Eastern Ukraine transformed into a nightmarish, post-apocalyptic hellscape where machines still run oblivious to the destruction around them and demobbed soldiers collect bodies off old battlefields. The year? 2025.

  1.  Ji Yuan Tai Qui Hao (No. 7 Cherry Lane)

Yonfan (HK/CN) 2019, subtitled in English. Oct 26, 15:30, Gartenbaukino & Nov 6, 13:00, Stadtkino 

A homage to the Hong Kong of the late 1960s, influential director Yonfan’s animation debut is a time capsule full of desire, love and loss in a time of social and cultural upheaval, dreamed in striking colors.

  1. Amazing Grace

Alan Elliott, Sydney Pollack (US), 1972/2019, subtitled in German. Nov 3, 23:00, Gartenbaukino & Nov 4, 18:30, Urania

Languishing in production for over 40 years, Sydney Pollack’s footage of the great Aretha Franklin recording Amazing Grace live at the Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles has finally been released, offering a glimpse of true musical greatness and a historic moment in America.

  1. Bacurau

Kleber Mendoça Filho, Juliano Dornelles (BR/FR) 2018, subtitled in English. Oct 29, 20:30, Gartenbaukino & Oct 30, 23:00, Gartenbaukino

The winner of this year’s Cannes Jury Prize, Bacurau is part political satire, part thriller with elements from sci-fi, westerns and horror, illustrating the many tensions within modern Brazilian society and culminating in a cathartic power-to-the-people motive. 

  1. Nan Fang Che Zhan De Ju Hui (Wild Goose Lake)

Diao Yinan (CN/FR) 2019, subtitled in English. Oct 29, 23:00, Stadtkino & Nov 5, 21:30, Urania

Faded neon lights and rain-slick asphalt set the tone for this neo-noir Chinese thriller by Golden Bear winner Diao Yinan (Black Coal, Thin Ice). Small time crook Zhou is on the lam for shooting a cop and wants the hooker Gwei to turn him in for the bounty – but there are others after him.

  1. Martin Eden

Pietro Marcello (IT/FR/De) 2019, subtitled in English. Nov 6, 19:00 & 23:00, Gartenbaukino

Loosely based on the novel by Jack London but set in Naples instead of Oakland, director and co-screenwriter Pietro Marcello relives 20th century Italy with all its upheavals and a neo-realist tinge via the antihero Martin Eden, a rough sailor searching for both respectability and self-expression through writing. But even his eventual success cannot tame his rugged individuality, leaving him forever an outsider.


Binu Starnegg
Manila born, Brooklyn bred and a longtime resident of Vienna, Binu Starnegg is currently managing editor for Metropole, where he completes myriad tasks with style and aplomb. Photo: Visual Hub

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