The “Brenner”-films are some of the best movies that Austria has produced within the last decades, and “Das ewige Leben” not only further establishes this rule, but might actually be the best of them (yet). My only two words of warning are: It’s extremly “Austrian”, thus I’m not sure how well it will translate to an international audience. And don’t expect a typical whodunit; at least when it comes to the story in the present, there’s never any question about who did what. However, that’s not really what “Das ewige Leben” is about anyway.
One of the things that I found most interesting about “Das ewige Leben” is the disparity concerning the level of information between the protagonists and the viewer. While the former know everything that has happened in the past – which is a mystery to us, the viewers, that is revealed only gradually over the course of the movie in dialogue and flashbacks – the viewers on the other hand have an advantage over them when it comes to what happens in the present, since unlike them, we see everything that transpires. A disparity that I found quite clever, fascinating and interesting. I also loved how everything that happens in the present is due to misconceptions, and/or the shadows of the past. The cast is absolutely great. Josef Hader was born to play Simon Brenner, and I simply can’t think of any actor, national or international, who could do a better job with this role. In “Das ewige Leben”, he also finally gets a great adversary, thanks to Tobias Moretti. Both are famous and highly regarded Austrian actors that so far – at least, as far as I could determine – never shared the silver sceen before; which makes “Das ewige Leben” some weird kind of Austrian “Heat”. The rest of the cast, which features Nora von Waldstätten, Roland Düringer, Christopher Schärf and Margarete Tiesel, is equally great. Apart from one weird-looking extra during the birthday party, who completely ruined the scene, there’s not a single weak link to be found here.*
“Das ewige Leben” might very well be the darkest and most depressing film of the “Brenner”-series, perfectly capturing the melancholy that besets the tortured Austrian soul. Which is not to say that there’s not also a lot of humor to be found. However – as most Austrian films, actually – said scenes are solemly laugh-out-loud-funny, but more of a black, macabre kind. So if you’re into this kind of stuff, you should have a great time with it. The showdown also is completely and utterly “Austrian”. Yes, there’s a car chase all the way through Graz, but since one of the vehicles is a small moped, it’s almost the antithesis to your typical Hollywood chase sequence, since it moves along at a leisurly pace. Same is true about the subsequent pursuit on foot. I also loved the quite lethargic way this confrontation ultimately ends. There’s just something extremely “Austrian” about the way it all transpires. The final icing on the cake is the way the flashbacks are shot. Typically, they are presented in washed-out colors or even black and white, to enforce that these things happened in the past. “Das ewige Leben” takes the completely other route, though, presenting them in radiant colors that visualize the nostalgic yearning for the “goold old times”. Overall, “Das ewige Leben” is a cleverly written, exquisitely shot and extremely entertaining movie with great characters, terrific performances, and many memorable scenes. And in case I made you curious now: There’s no need to watch the other Brenner movies before watching this, it’s completely self-sustained. So – given that you get the chance and/or can find the movie with subtitles – just go ahead and enjoy…
* = Just kidding, guys. Said extra is my good and dear friend Maynard!
PS: In case you want to read my (more elaborate) german review, here’s the link: -> fictionBOX