A lesser known tale from another era…

RAMNATH N. PAI RAIKAR

Film: Alma and Oskar

Cast: Valentin Postlmayr, Emily Cox, Mehmet Atesci and Anton von Lucke

Directed by: Dieter Berne

Duration: 110 minutes

‘Alma and Oskar’, the opening film at the ongoing International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2022 can be adequately described as a short film about love, with a dash of obsessive passion.

The Austrian movie directed by Dieter Berne is a biopic depicting the passionate but tumultuous relationship between the Viennese society Grand Dame Alma Mahler (1879-1964) and the radical Austrian artist and playwright, Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980). The production narrates the incidents in the life of the two lovers, starting in 1911 and concluding somewhere during the end of the World War I.

When Alma Mahler (Emily Cox), the wife of the legendary Austro-Bohemian romantic composer, Gustav Mahler is widowed in 1911, her love for Oskar Kokoschka (Valentin Postlmayr) takes a chaotic turn, with Oskar being overtly possessive about his lover. Using Alma as a model, he even creates works as inspired by his relationship with her. At one point of time, his obsession with Alma grows to such an extent that he even considers her departed husband as his rival in love. After some time their affair, dominated by lust and desire starts threatening their existence to the extent of no return. The insane behaviour of Oskar even results in Alma going through an abortion, thus losing their child.

Alma, a composer of reasonable talent tries to revive the final work of her first husband by roping in German-born conductor, pianist and composer Bruno Walter (Mehmet Atesci), and subsequently marries German-American architect, Walter Gropius (Anton von Lucke) although the relationship survives only few years.

When the World War I breaks out, Oskar volunteers for service as a cavalryman in the Austrian army, and is seriously wounded. At the hospital, the doctors decided that he is mentally unstable. Oskar then commissions a life-sized female doll resembling Alma. The film ends as Oskar takes a curtain call at the end of the performance of his opera, ‘Orpheus und Eurydike’ (1918) with the doll by his side, just as Alma enters the theatre. The closing credits inform that the two lovers exchanged letters till the end of their life.

Aided by some very good camerawork by the cinematographer, Jakub Bejnarowicz and captivating musical pieces by composer, Stefan Will, ‘Alma and Oskar’ becomes an interesting movie due of the simplicity in its narration. The director, Dieter Berner adequately succeeds in recreating the period setting at the beginning of the 20th century, while Valentin Postlmayr and Emily Cox perfectly match the intensity and love-hate relationship of the star-crossed lovers.

‘Alma and Oskar’ is a comparatively lesser known tale from another era, which brings out the darker side of the creative geniuses.

IFFI Quotes

India has become the content hub and in the coming years the film industry is going to get even larger. This year, for the festival we received many film entries, even from countries that were not there previously. I have gone to various film festivals and have seen a craze for for Tamil and Telugu films. People want these films to be dubbed in their languages. I am proud to be a part of this industry for so long and I think that cinema is a medium that brings people together and speaks of the culture, the diversity and the people of the country.”

– Hrishitaa Bhatt, Actress

We are very honoured to have France as the country of honour this year. We are showcasing 20 movies and are very hopeful that we are going to win. France has a great movie industry and we invented cinema and brought it to India in 1896 when the first French movie was screened in Mumbai. Since then there has been amazing co-operation between both the countries. Every year in France we produce 300 odd films and we have a lot of co-productions with India. Some of them have been extremely successful like ‘Lunchbox’ and ‘Sir’ and want to have more of these. We are also very happy this year that at the Oscars, India presented a movie which was a co-production with France. And we are going to do a lot more with India. France loves Bollywood movies and movies from different parts of India. We love the diversity, the vibrancy, the music. We love everything about them.”

– Emmanuel Lenain, Ambassador of France to India