“Vogerl” Takes Flight
A young American filmmaker debuts in Vienna with a touching story of luck, love and plenty of Wiener Schmäh
The first warm evening in June saw the première of the film "Das Glück is a Vogerl" ("Luck is a little bird") at Vienna’s Breitenseer Lichtspiele, one of the oldest cinemas in continuous operation in the world. It’s a venerable old movie house: Lichtspiele first opened its doors in 1908 (although not in the current building), and still provides a cosy setting for film aficionados, making it ideal for the first flight of a new Viennese short film.
Through the green doors, past a display of antique cinemas in the atrium, the soft light from the smokey wall sconces bathes the lobby in warmth. Inside the revelry has already begun, amid Sekt and fine art-house conversation.
A life-sized mannequin catches my eye: the cinema patron who never left? An effigy of its last owner? The gods have clearly blessed this house and the plays of light and sound that live on within its august walls. And the company of cinema ghosts is resplendent with Viennese luminaries past who, like the poet H. C. Artmann, had their own reserved seats.
But on this night, the ancient movie house was the scene of a film première by one of Vienna’s youngest filmmakers, Shoshana Rae Stark, who at 21 has crafted a charming pastiche of Viennese life, rendered with more than a hint of Schmäh. It tells a story all too familiar in this past decade of banking scandals – lost investments, lost jobs and lost hope – but shows how the humanity of friends and even strangers can turn things around.
A buzz of excited conversation surrounds the young filmmaker, admittedly nervous but at the same time relieved that the long creative journey was almost over. Stark chose her journeyman’s project carefully, and worked on the script for nearly two years.
Born in Newport Beach in California, she grew up in Vienna and combines a European sensibility with a laid-back West Coast charm.
She did film workshops at the Medien Zentrum during school vacations, and won a scholarship to attend the prestigious SAE Institute of Creative Media in Vienna, which gave her a thorough grounding in filmmaking technology, as well as practical support through equipment loans.
The latter proved invaluable in making the film, which brought together a talented team of artists, actors, technicians and other supporters to produce a highly professional, 31-minute confection. A contribution of €1,000 from the City of Vienna’s "Cash for Culture" project made up half the budget, while the rest came from family and friends.
Vienna’s bars, parks and streets provide the highly recognisable backdrop, blending with a musical tribute to Carol Reed’s The Third Man through the evocative use of a zither.
Stark shows a deft mastery of directing the action, drawing on three years of experience producing her own popular TV show Fashion and the City on Okto TV. The show brought her to the attention of Romana Carén, the Austrian singer, actor and filmmaker who gave her work as an editor and became her film mentor.
As the lights dim in our historic cinema, all eyes turn to the flicker of colours and shadows on the wall. Starting in a bank’s offices, to a chance meeting of a new friend on a park bench, our handsome hero wanders the streets of Vienna facing an uncertain future. Perhaps in shock from being fired from his position at the bank, he encounters a wealthy businessman whose fortune has vanished at the hands of the CEO of the same bank.
The climax of the movie takes place in a typical Viennese Beisl (pub), where the two younger and two older protagonists meet over a few beers, commiserating on the fickle nature of luck, life and love, before finally deciding that (in the words of the poet whose song lends the film its name), good luck is a shy bird indeed.
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