© Alamode Film/Filmagentinnen

Alma & Oskar
Austria/Germany/Switzerland/Czech Republic 2022

Opening 6 Jul 2023

Directed by: Dieter Berner
Writing credits: Hilde Berger, Dieter Berner
Principal actors: Emily Cox, Valentin Postlmayr, Tatiana Pauhofová, Anton von Lucke, Wilfried Hochholdinger

The socialite Alma Mahler (Emily Cox) is freshly widowed following the much-older Gustav Mahler’s death in 1911, and a single parent to their daughter “Gucki” (Lilo Grün). Meeting the enfant terrible Oskar Kokoschka (Valentin Postlmayr), Alma is drawn to the wild unconventionality of the Austrian artist’s (poet, playwright, teacher) intense expressionistic work. Alma was mentored well growing up in a wealthy household, and then as wife of the famous composer/conductor. Being artistically gifted herself, Alma’s prominence in the Viennese cultural scene is sealed. Hobnobbing with artists, writers, and musicians, she comfortably seduces the temperamental artist. Oskar’s output is creatively stimulated as well.

Set against the backdrop of the Habsburg Empire’s finish, many of the artist’s friends and acquaintances are also historically relevant: Archduke Franz Ferdinand (Cornelius Obonya), art nouveau painter Carl Moll (Roland Koch), Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius (Anton von Lucke), Alma’s friend Lilly Lieser (Táňa Pauhofová), conductor/composer Bruno Walter (Mehmet Atesci) and writer/poet Peter Altenberg (Gerald Votava) are a few. Alma and Oskar’s tempestuous affaire almost devours them piecemeal, until Oskar takes it one stitch too far.

Austrian director Dieter Berner and Hilde Berger’s co-written screenplay takes a potluck approach to accuracy in this historical drama. Postlmayr and Cox’s performances are stilted, perfunctory. Their lackluster portrayals lack the chemistry to convey their characters’ passion, neverminded convincing audiences. The beauty of the film is in Jakub Bejnarowicz’s camera choices and encompassing cinematography, Stefan Will’s music, Christoph Brunner and Samuel Danési’s editing, Su Erdt’s production design, Iris Trescher’s art direction and Katarina Bielikova’s costume design. Oskar comes across as an egoistic parvenu, Alma as controlling, and single-mindedly aggrandizing her social status. Neither elicit empathy for their self-initiated plights. (Marinell Haegelin)

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