An Austrian madman, well inspired by Greenaway
27 January 2002
Many stories have been told about Fritz Lehner's newest film, whose production took more than five years, probably the most expensive and costly Austrian movie ever. All the newspaper critics have torn it to pieces, international festivals refused to show it, now the future will show how the audience reacts to it.

The story of Everyman (in German: Jedermann) is old, but it is best known from Hugo von Hoffmannsthal's play `Jedermann' that is shown every year at the Salzburg drama festival. Apart from the very basic plot framework, Lehner's movie has absolutely nothing to do with the play. It is a modern version about an Austrian couturier (played by Klaus Maria Brandauer, whose face is not exactly what one wants to see in close-up for throughout almost three hours), who dies in a car accident and ruminates during his last hours about how one more night in his life could have gone by.

Lehner's movie is long and often exhausting. But one does injustice to Lehner and Brandauer, if one says that the movie is completely bad. Right, the whole project is pretentious and megalomaniacal. Often it is just stupid and it may have been cut much shorter.

Still, a simple story about success and death is told in a coherent way, with much symbolism and - that is the main point - in absolutely brilliant, beautiful pictures and moods. I suspect Lehner of having been inspired by Peter Greenaway movies, which is absolutely no problem for me because not many directors have followed Greenaway yet and the fact that it is an Austrian director who, besides, shows Vienna and its vicinity in a completely new light, without any Lipizzaner or waltz clichés, is quite exciting.

So, in spite of all the - indisputable - weaknesses that were pointed out in the reviews, this is a wonderful, a beautiful movie, at least if one doesn't take it completely seriously and watches it with expectations as low as I did. I'm afraid it won't happen but it would be great if `Jedermanns Fest' could be successful. I think, we could even send it to the United States. The American audience would like it better than the Austrian, and maybe this could finally result in an Oscar nomination. But again: I'm afraid this will never happen.
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