World War I changes a lot of things for everyone in Austria and specifically, Lieutenant Peter Perg (Murathan Muslu). He served one country only to enter a new, unfamiliar one. For instance, before the war, his maid introduces his guests to his household before they arrive. His maid still insists on the archaic ritual, but the guests? Not so much, as they bang on the doors on Peter’s abandoned mansion. That guest bangs on his door because they need him to investigate the murder of one of the men he served with on the Eastern front. He was one of Vienna’s best detectives during the war. But now, his colleagues (Marc Limpach and Max von der Groeben) think that Peter is responsible.
Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Hinterland, a mystery, where Peter must solve solve what eventually becomes a series of murders. Ruzowitzky, in, telling this story, references the works of German expressionists like Ernst Lugwig Kirchner. Dutch angles also depict duh, a world without balance as Peter goes to a Vienna different from the one a few years back. He goes homeless shelters full of increasingly anti-Semitic veterans. When he’s not there he sees Communists, Jewish people wanting Palestine, and pimps populating the streets. The actors are real, by the way, and the streets look like an art director built them, but Ruzowitzky shows the rest of Vienna through ugly CGI backdrops.
The silver lining about seeing German Expressionism is finding the thread between the original iteration of the genre to now. Orson Welles, Japanese film, 80s horror, Gondry. I see two other choices in changing this aesthetic. These choices are less audacious but as I probably wrote in a previous review, sometimes boring works. Instead of whatever this is, Ruzowitzky could have either just used the real Vienna or gone the A Scanner Darkly route. I get that this aesthetic express how unfamiliar Peter is with the new Vienna. But what’s the point of making a point if it arrives at somewhere unsuccessful? The fact that this aesthetic reminds me of Angelica Anaconda should alarm the crew.
The sad part of all of this is that unlike some of the criticism I’ve read about Hinterland, it actually has some good commentary. Peter and his only female colleague, Dr. Theresa Korner (Liv Lisa Fries), meet at a Jazz bar and even he finds it weird that Austrians there to perform Jazz. It’s if Black people know to get out of Austria because it will get worse that it does in 1920. I give this film credit for inserting commentary through absence. The story and the context is weird enough that it’s sad that Ruzowitzky chooses to aestheticize it. Although maybe I give the story too much credit. The social commentary from a gay pacifist and Peter having an affair with Theresa shows that yes, men wrote this.