A promising young pianist commits suicide. He spent his last evening in the company of the industrialist Friedrich Hofreiter. His wife Genia is in possession of a farewell note, in which the pianist explains that she had refused to have an affair with him and that he had shot himself out of unrequited love. Genia's sacrifice and commitment to marital fidelity cause the notorious womanizer Hofreiter to hastily leave for the mountains, where he begins a new affair. During his absence, Genia embarks on an affair with Otto, the son of an acquaintance. When Hofreiter returns and finds out about his wife's adultery, he challenges Otto to a duel and kills him.Written by
Ulf Kjell Gür
Schnitzler's brilliant play Far and Wide was brought to the telescreen in 1970. It is a real FILM, not a recording of a stage performance, yet the text has not been altered, only heavily but intelligently abridged. The film is set in rich but not very friendly gardens, which, partly, makes up for the untypically dark atmosphere. Other reasons are the shocking quality of sound and light and very poor technical means (one gets used to them after a while). Also some comic reliefs of the play were radically reduced or left out completely.
After reading the play, it was very interesting to see this film because of its superb yet unusual main cast. O.W. Fischer and Ruth Leuwerik, the stars of schmaltzy 1950s melodramas mostly featuring mountains, hills and folk music, are playing the Hofreiters here, the most unromantic couple in German literature. Both are perfect: Fischer is warm, silent and full of bitterness (not as aggressively humorous as Schnitzler's Hofreiter), and Leuwerik manages to walk on the thin red line between composure and despair.
Sweet Sabine Sinjen is the ideal cast as the naive and unpredictable Lolita. André Heller, Michael Heltau and Bibiane Zeller give early performances in short scenes, and they all fit their characters perfectly, although they do not have much to say. The same is true for the great Austrian legend Helmut Qualtinger, who turns the small but decisive part of Herr Natter a main character. The worst actor is Walter Reyer: he makes his Dr. Mauer smile dreamily throughout the film, which is nothing more than a misinterpretation of the character.
I don't think outsiders, seeing this film, will be able to perceive the entire complexity of Schnitzler's play. But it is definitely worth it because they will see a marvellous bunch of famous Austrian actors. For fans of Schnitzler, it is a wonderful, almost academic experience.
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