Aus der Zeit

Harald Friedl’s Award-Winning Documentary of Small Shops and the End of an Era

Harald Friedl’s award winning documentary Aus der Zeit  (Out of Time) is a poignant and fascinating study of the world of the small shop-keeper in modern Vienna – a tender and intimate look at four locally owned businesses that have been family run for some 100 years, and through it, tell a story of culture and values and the true meaning of social change.

August and Katharina Jentsch run a leather shop which first established in 1874 and Gertrude and Werner Fritz, a family butcher shop, founded 1904. Joseph Kienesberger runs a drugstore which was founded in 1928, and Erika Frimmel, the Button King (Knopfkönig) shop established  in 1844.

The passage of time is a constant theme in this fine documentary, and by the end, all of the businesses but one will have closed. Thus the title takes on a multi-faceted meaning – Out of Time – out of time as in separate, outside of contemporary and mainstream, and too, as in time running out. They are part of a world that is coming to an end. The businesses are anachronisms, out of sync with current trends and market forces. They all value quality and offer a personalised service a dedication to the customer as an individual.

In the case of Jentsch, Kienesberger and Fritz, the businesses also play a function as part of a greater social community. The contrast could not be greater to the anonymity and values of today’s modern shopping culture.

The camera takes on the role of a silent observer in Aus der Zeit and the absence of commentary allows the shop keepers to tell their own story. We hear their memories and reflections, while the intimate movement, focus and gaze of the lens give us an insight into their day-to-day operations – a world unseen by most of us – making us privy to the experience of these wonderfully eccentric and likeable characters.

It is a valuable historical record of a dying breed of business.

August and Katharina Jentsch know everything about leather, they take a great pride in what they do and feel happiest in their shop. This is where they belong, amongst the pieces of leather and piles of paperwork. In their conversations that border on philosophy, they talk of their history with the business and their feeling of connection to it,  how they feel time passes differently in the shop, separate from the world outside. Katharina Jentsch knows that her husband cannot leave the shop that has so many memories of his childhood and family.

For over 70 years Joseph Kienesberger has worked in the drug store. He keeps everything neatly in order, despite the fact that few customers come into the shop. It is as if time has stood still – the till is an antique and everything is priced in shillings.

Kienesberger is chatty and jovial, he is charming to customers when they appear, and the rest of the time, he reads a newspaper, shaves or dwells on memories that bring tears to his eyes. Then the time comes that the business must close; after selling everything, Kienesberger sits on a camp bed in a back room that looks like a prison cell.

Werner and Gerti Fritz get ready to go into retirement, knowing that they will miss all the customer contact. In the meantime, business carries on as usual with Werner butchering the meat and Gerti cooking and serving in the shop. Gerti cries when they finally close the doors on the last day.

But at the end of the documentary, we see her and Werner in the countryside listening to music and dancing to Rock n’ Roll – that was their music, their time, and now it symbolizes a new beginning.

In many ways Erika Frimmel’s business is set apart from the other three. The Knopfkonig is the in the 1st district and the ‘noblest’ of the shops with its grand interior. She married into the business and complains of how she has spent 45 years trapped in the shop, now persevering alone because her husband has alzheimers. She is looking for a chance, a chance she has the opportunity to take by selling the business to a chocolate manufacturer.

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