Adapted from Robert Seethaler’s bestselling novel of the same name, The Tobacconist is a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of an Austria on the verge of change. When Franz (Simon Morze) departs the countryside to become an apprentice in Vienna, the 17-year old has much to learn about love and life. Under the guide of Otto (Johannes Krisch), who lost a leg during World War I, Franz starts to learn the tricks of the trade by keeping tabs on regular customers that frequent the shop, such as infamous psychologist Sigmund Freud (Bruno Ganz, in one of his final roles). As Franz begins a courtship with a local bohemian girl Anezka (Emma Drogunova), he forges a relationship with Freud in order to seek advice and help interpret these nightmarish dreams he’s been having.
This slice of historical fiction falls flat in how it distills narrative beats regarding how the rise of Nazism and Germany’s takeover of Austria affects the main protagonist, similar how other Holocaust and European World War II films. Even the relationship between Franz and Freud, albeit fictional, is only there to satisfy the story’s fetishization of Franz’s sexually romantic repression as he comes of age (excuse the pun).
The only positive aspect of the film is how visually it recreates late-1930’s Vienna, suckering the viewer into how timeless the city aesthetically felt before the Nazi regime’s takeover. However, beyond the mere aesthetic of the production design, this film is not worth the time to analyze.