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Die Gstettensaga: The Rise of Echsenfriedl[edit | edit source]

Screening and discussion at Noisebridge (postponed til end of August 2014).

(film review)

The last two remaining superpowers – China and Google – start a war and end the world. This is how “Die Gstettensaga: The Rise of Echsenfriedl” starts, and it’s no-bullshit hilarity that you wish you could see on screen more often. The feature was co-produced by art-tech group monochrom and their friends at the Viennese media collective Traum & Wahnsinn (German for Dream & Madness; what a name!).

Well, you expect high weirdness from a writer-director like Johannes Grenzfurthner, who fronts monochrom and is known for the freakiest shenanigans and the most thorough academic theories – and you get a lovin’ spoonful of all of it delivered through this production.

Decades after the disastrous “Google Wars,” a shady media tycoon (with a weakness for Boris Vallejo) hires a pestilent journalist and an over-enthusiastic technician to do the first live broadcast of (post)-post-war history, using the emerging medium of “Tele-O-Vision.” Who is to be interviewed? Echsenfriedl, a strange “pioneer of contraptions” who lives hidden in the hinterland (Austrian slang: “Gstetten”) of the Alpine fringes. It’s a quest to kick-start the future’s future. Will it succeed? Depends on how you define “success.”

“Die Gstettensaga” was shot in less than a week for 5000 Euros (quite a metric!), so it is clearly a super-low-budget endeavor; but it is neither trashy nor campy, except when it wants to be trashy or campy. The film is packed with nuggets of weirdness and wisdom, and the translator of the English subtitles cannot be praised highly enough.

Grenzfurthner’s doctrine, if there is one at all, is to do it yourself, to try, to make it happen, maybe fail, but to do so with levity, and never let yourself be blinded by the succubus of “wrong life.” It cannot be lived rightly, and many members of the oh-so-liberal hacker community should be more aware of their level of complicity with the ruling elite. Maybe they need postal officers with huge guns (flawlessly portrayed by Roland Gratzer and Evelyn Fürlinger) to remind them.

Thomas Weilguny’s cinematography is crisp, almost documentarian, and Sarah Strauss’ costumes are a real (cost-effective) joy. Tinsel-decorated, Crocs-wearing power-line-deniers never looked that swell.

Is there anything to criticize? and there, but I’m not going to tell you, because what I could perceive as a flaw is probably another viewer’s favorite innuendo. Decide for yourself.

Noisebridge is mentioned in the title credits with a “special thanks,” and I’m glad the folks at our favorite SFO hackerspace helped make it possible.

-pwn (April 2014)