Patrick Vollrath is Riding the Wave of New Austrian Cinema
For this Oscar-nominated Vienna-based director, Alles Wird Gut
After decades of obscurity, Austrian “new-wave” cinema has recently reclaimed its place on the international film scene. Whether the realistic dramas of Michael Haneke and Ulrich Seidl, or the crafted documentaries of Michael Glawogger and Nikolaus Geyrhalter, its commitment to a naturalistic yet meticulous authenticity, a delicate balance of controlled unaffectedness, has resonated with audiences [and critics alike] and led to an innovative era in contemporary Austrian film.
This artful realism has found its latest expression in Patrick Vollrath’s short film, Alles Wird Gut (Everything Will Be Okay), nominated this year for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short.
Winner of the Austrian Film Award 2015 as well as a Rail d’Or at Cannes, the simple but gripping 30-minute film unfolds over the course of a day. An eight-year-old daughter of divorced parents slowly realizes that her father has decided to resort to desperate measures to spend more time with her.
Although the young director originally hails from Germany, Vollrath has considered Vienna his home since 2008 when he joined the Austrian Film Academy, studying under Haneke.
It’s been an exciting scene to be part of. “Austrian cinema has a very good reputation in other countries,” he says. “As a filmmaker, you have lot of freedom here, it’s a very precise, very honest way of filmmaking.” There’s probably more money in Germany, but there are also a lot more filmmakers.
Casting a spell
“Here, there’s not as much pressure to conform, you can try things out and therefore have more room to fail, but also to achieve greater success in the end.”
The lessons of his predecessors have not been lost on the 30-year-old auteur. In casting, for example, he takes his cue from Haneke of spending as much time as necessary.
“Casting is half the battle,” Haneke emphasized, in finding the children for his pre-WWII drama, The White Ribbon. Likewise, Vollrath spent half a year searching for the 8-year-old protagonist of his 30-minute short. “I wouldn’t have made this film if I hadn’t found Julia Pointner.”
Indeed, the first-time actor’s remarkable performance, which critics have described as “stunning” and “superb”, is one of the film’s central strengths. But the modest Vollrath often deflects attention from his own role in the film’s success.
A minimalist approach
Marion Rottenhofer, who plays the mother, gave more insight into the director’s contribution, by revealing some of the techniques he used to achieve the organic feel of the scenes and the acting style, one of which was the fact that the script had no dialogue, only situations with objectives, an approach also used by Ulrich Seidl.
“I always think less is more, and Patrick also shares this principle.” Indeed, the effectiveness of this strategy is already apparent in the opening scene, when the father comes to pick up his daughter from the mother and the two adults do not exchange a single word. What might have been a banal domestic scene reveals the searing tension of post-marital discourse.
Rottenhofer, a seasoned actor, was impressed by Vollrath’s ability to capture effective performances. “At 30, Patrick already has the qualities that most directors only gain through more experience. He knew how to create the kind of safe environment in which things could happen without being forced and how to speak to us in an encouraging way—he’s very human, a real Mensch.”