Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Ruzowitzky’s Hinterland

Sadly, too many Vietnam veterans could relate to the indifferent and sometimes hostile homecomings these Austrian POWs experienced after WWI. In retrospect, this turned out to be a terrible long-term social policy. Fully cognizant of the scars he carries, former Lt. Peter Perg is skeptical he can transition back to civilian life, but the ex-cop agrees to help his former colleagues hunt for a serial killer preying on his fellow army veterans in Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Hinterland, which releases Friday on VOD.

This is 1920 Vienna, but it looks a lot like Tim Burton’s Gotham. Using digital technology, Ruzowitzky immerses his cast in a highly expressionistic urban jungle, inspired by
Dr. Caligari and other silent films of the era. It looks amazing, like film noir from Hell, in a good way.

Hinterland also has a narrative of some substance to go with its stunning visuals, unlike many would-be dazzlers that forget the other elements that produce a worthy film. Perg has a real case to investigate and macabre clues to uncover, as further horrific murders are discovered.

Initially, the only one who really wants him involved in the case is Dr. Theresa Korner, a woman as you might have guessed, whom the police commissar reluctantly promoted to her current medical examiner position during the War, simply because there were no qualified men at the time. Yet, she also remembers first-hand Perg’s brilliance during previous cases.

Ruzowitzky does not ring this bell obsessively, but it is pretty easy to see from their treatment from interwar society why many of Perg’s fellow veterans would be radicalized by the National Socialists. Ruzowitzky also nicely shows the not-so cold war being waged between the Communists and various nationalists in the city’s streets and back alleys. Ironically, even though a great deal of the picture was digitally generated,
Hinterland has a keen sense of time and place.

Murathan Muslu broods hard enough as Perg to turn carbon into diamonds. He also has some intriguing and believably awkward chemistry with Liv Lisa Fries’s Dr. Korner. Even though
Hinterland could be considered a visually-driven film, they give real, acutely human performances.

Ruzowitzky, who won the Foreign Language Oscar for
The Counterfeiters, does his film no favors when he uses the trendy epithet “toxic masculinity” to describe Hinterland. Perg’s masculinity might be wounded, but it is tragically heroic, so show some respect. The truth is Hinterland is far better and has much greater depth than Ruzowitzky’s ill-thought-out pitch would suggest. Recommended for both the style and the substance, Hinterland releases Friday (107) on VOD.