World Cinema: Made in Vienna

Tracing Vienna film history through 46 films shot here

The Vienna sewers where racketeer Harry Lime leads Major Calloway on a daring chace for his life in The Third Man | Photo: Brigitte Timmermann

Don’t judge a book by its cover, we’re told. But a city by its films?

For Vienna, judging requires selecting which Vienna you have in mind: Imperial Vienna, Red Vienna, Nazi Vienna, Occupied Vienna, or any of the modern-day Viennas? Or perhaps even an imaginary Vienna, as Orson Welles evoked in his famous observation in his 1968 unfinished short film Vienna: “The Vienna that never was, is the grandest city ever.”

Editor Robert Dassanowsky opens his compendium World Film Locations: Vienna with that quote to prepare the reader for a diverse survey of cinematographic moments that have taken place here. Spanning from 1922 to 2011, the guide presents 46 films and respective locations in Vienna associated to them. Be forewarned: This is not a walking guide for cinephiles.

Through 15 contributors, Dassanowsky traces the history of Vienna on the screen through six periods, beginning with the signature 1920s works Sodom and Gomorrha and Die Stadt Ohne Juden (The City Without Jews). The survey includes The Third Man, Sissi, Mayerling, The Living Daylights, and Before Sunrise, as expected. Yet, several are lesser-known to English-speaking audiences, such as the Global World Union’s arrival at Schönbrunn in a flying saucer in the sci-fi/satire April 1, 2000.

Each colourful page presents a film with its location, a description, a contemporary picture of the location, and several film stills for comparison. Endstation takes place on an entire tram route, but is only associated with the Naschmarkt which, according to the admittedly helpful time codes, is the setting for 2’15” of the film.

Thus, many memorable moments in specific alleys or cafés are ignored for the sake of a general location. Who can forget the hidden corners visited by the enamoured couple in Before Sunrise? In this tome, there’s no mention of the Kleines Café, the Friedhof der Namenlosen, or the record shop on Windmühlgasse (see “A Cinephile goes Walking Before Sunrise” TVR June 2012); its location is only Westbahnhof.

Fortunately for the intentions of the book, Josefsplatz and the caryatids of the Palais Pallavicini play a pivotal role in the The Third Man, but many other locations – Schreyvogelgasse, the Hohermarkt, the Riesenrad – deserve mention.

You wouldn’t want to use the inaccurate, computer-generated maps of Vienna to actually navigate the city, but they do give a general idea of where the locations can be found. To spare Dassanowsky the blame, such elements likely reflect the publishers’ decision to publish it as one of a series.

World Film Locations: ViennaThe tome excels in tracing the history and highlights of cinema in Vienna, with Dassanowsky’s informative spotlights on various film eras. The variety of authorship provides a range of perspective, and while some entries seem off-the-mark, others contain new details (Sissi and Franz Josef actually wed in Augustinerkirche, not Michaelerkirche as in the 1955 Sissi.)

In all, the book is worthy for its information and scope. If you want to go hunting for the film settings, though, you can leave it at home.

World Film Locations: Vienna Edited by Robert Dassanowsky
Intellect Books (Sept. 2012)
pp. 124          

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