Friday, November 10, 2006
Wolf Haas and Austrian noir
Every now and then there's a chance to get a glimpse of the "crime culture" of other countries and languages, things not normally available in the U.S. and in English. The currently touring 2006 European Union Film Showcase includes Silentium, a film made by Wolfgang Murnberger from a series of novels by Wolf Haas featuring Brenner, a seedy private detective played in the film by the sad-eyed, scruffy Josef Hader. The film is very dark, very funny, and full of references to films (North by Northwest, Butch and Sundance, and on and on), religious imagery, and twists on crime cliches. There's a car chase in the spiral driveway of a parking deck that is marvelous and dizzying. At one point, the hallucinating Brenner becomes a "player" in a foosball game, a very well done, very funny, and at the same time horrifying bit of film. The religious imagery is mostly Catholic and mostly very funny (hard to describe without coming off as blasphemous--satire is often hard to describe without losing the bite. This little glimpse of Haas's fiction makes me hungry for more of what my lack of German makes inaccessible--I can only hope for another film showcase or future translations. I highly recommend this series (film or book, though I only have experience of the former) to those who can read German, those with access to Zone 2 DVDs, or especially to those looking for translation projects.