Indien (1993)

06 Jul

Indien was the first Austrian film that I saw after my arrival in Austria. Funny, isn’t it? I come from India to Austria and the first Austrian film I watch is called India. Since then I have become a fan of Austrian films. The humour is quite different than that I was accustomed to in India. It is sarcastic, ironical at the same time very loving and caring about the people in it.

The story of the film in fact is very straightforward, sort of a cross between ‘Anand’ and ‘The Odd Couple’. Kurt Fellner and Heinz Bösel are two food inspectors in Lower Austria. They meet for the first time in the very first scene. Heinz Bösel (Josef Hader) is a smoker and has a passion for junk food and drinks can beer while driving. Kurt Fellner (Alfred Dorfer) has an smoke-allergy, is an almost-vegetarian and recycles waste.

Herr Fellner talks about his likes and dislikes, his love for summer and spring and his preference for fall and winter, while Herr Bösel looks straight ahead with a pained look on his face. This changes with the first confrontation with an inn-keeper and a defect shower. When he comes out drenched to his underclothes, Herr Bösel utters is his first famous words “All the inn-keepers are morons”. Now the roles are reversed, Herr Bösel talks about his likes and dislikes for different cuisines and Herr Fellner puts on his earphones.

Well, it can’t go on like this forever. It has to come to a clash and clash it does! Not once and not twice but thrice! And the third time it comes to a night of ‘intimacy’, which is just hinted at. In that night Hr. Bösel confesses that he leads an unhappy marriage and that the very act of love is just a weapon to irritate her. The next morning at the breakfast table, Herr Fellner has just got the news that his girl-friend has left him.

This binds them together and the Guru-Sangeet (Jo such pave, Gobind ki seva). A conversation in the toilet (!) leads them to call each other by their first names. This is one of the most famous scenes of the movie and has to be seen to be believed.

Their happiness though doesn’t last long. Kurt is admitted to the hospital for testicular pains and nobody knows the cause. It is reported that the doctor left the results locked in a cupboard and went off on a holidays in Canada for ‘helicopter skiing’.

The end is predictable but the way which it is depicted is unique. These misfits are not rebels or any kind of heroes. Two men in the service of the state. Quite ordinary people in their own world and terribly lonely. Kurt has his encyclopaedic knowledge of different cultures which just drips of clichés. Heinz with his gift at playing cards and his knowledge of native Americans picked up from Karl May. They are persons with whom if we meet in personal life wouldn’t be really friends with. When Kurt’s girl friend leaves him we sympathise with him, but we really can’t blame her, since his idea of a romantic present is a mixer, since he loves a banana frappe.

When I was first asked about the story, I said it is a story of two gay men and the people around me (who knew the story already) were shocked. I attributed it to their conservative, heterosexual look at things. In my version ‘the night’ was proof enough that they had their coming out and since then were a couple. Naturally it can be viewed in this manner. But it is equally possible that they are just two heterosexual guys who mess around at times. Something like Mann and Feroze’s friendship in Vikram Seth’s ‘The Suitable Boy’. I had an interesting discussion on this at bollywood deewana‘s place on the film Dosti.

Another aspect of this movie is the complete lack of picturesque Alps. Only time they are to be seen are in the form of scenic photos in the rooms of the local inns, which are so popular in the guest houses. Instead the wide plains of Lower Austria are shown with depressive depiction of the electricity lines and the oil drilling machines, which is a fact I didn’t know till some time back!

But all in all a totally wonderful film! In the first half you shed tears of laughter and in the second half tears of sorrow and in both halves a mixture of both! And as an extra you get lots of information about the culinary habits of different cultures and native americans and reincarnation! 😉

If you get a chance to watch this film, grab it!


Posted by on July 6, 2010 in Austrian Films


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14 responses to “Indien (1993)

  1. bollyviewer

    July 6, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    It certainly sounds like a very sweet slice-of-life kind of film. And any reference to India in a foreign film is always enough to tempt me into watching! 😀

    Another aspect of this movie is the complete lack of picturesque Alps.

    Are the Alps de rigueur for all Austrian films?

    • harveypam

      July 7, 2010 at 1:13 pm

      It is a great film! A classic in fact!

      Well the Alps were part ana parcel of the Austrian Films in the 50s, 60s and 70s. In the 80s there was a lull in the film industry. The films after the 90s are hardly in the Alps, mostly concentrated in urban milieu, mostly Vienna.

      The stories based in Alps are called Heimat films sort of country films comparable to Marathi films of the 50s, 60s and 70s where the main plot centered around the landlord, his son and the tamasha dancer. In the Austrian films it was more like the landlord his son and the milkmaid. I am generalising ver ymuch but sort of. And then there were Peter Alexander films in the 60s, which were more like Shammi Kapoor films of the 60s in India with song, dance and all.

  2. dustedoff

    July 7, 2010 at 11:17 am

    That sounds interesting – but I’m a little intrigued by the title. Any thoughts on why this was called Indien?

  3. harveypam

    July 7, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Well, the title is Indien because Kurt speaks a lot about India and also because of his strong belief in reincarnation.

    One of his famous lines in the film is: “There is mostly a strong corelation between the landscape and the cuisine. In Austria there is a lush vegetation and thus our cuisine is also heavy thus the cakes and pies. In India for e.g., they eat rice! They eat rice sitting on the street, some people are starving. It must be a fascinating landscape!”
    It is the resonates very much with the picture of India what the so-called enlightened have and had in the 60s and 70s. And since this is very much of a running gag now. It gives a clear picture of Kurt’s inner world. The mixing up of cliches and half-truths.
    At other point Heinz brings in his knowledge of native Americans where says “You know the ‘Indians’ they don’t attack in the night”
    Kurt: “Whom?”
    Heinz: “Ahem…, the … fort…”
    Revealing the source of his information as old Karl May stories, which were very popular in Germany and Austria.

    • dustedoff

      July 8, 2010 at 7:08 am

      Okay! I love that dialogue about the Indians not attacking the – ahem – fort at night! LOL.

  4. bollywoodeewana

    July 7, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Reminds me of a bit of a German film called Regular guys (Echte Kerle), the characters in that one were gay though, and there was a bit of a surprise twist at the end if i remember clearly. A wonderful film about gay issues i saw recently upon watching the celluloid closet is ‘The Children’s Hour’ with Audrey Hepburn & Shirley Maclaine, i feel it’s still very much relevant to now as it was then, a must watch

    • harvey

      July 7, 2010 at 4:46 pm

      Didn’t/Couldn’t catch up Echte Kerle. I heard it was quite a funny film. Isn’t it the film about the football team?

      Correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t the film The Children’s Hour where Audrey Hepburn and Shirley Manclaine get accused of being involved in a lesbian relationship. If I remember right, Shirley Maclaine talks about it in ‘The GAy Closet’, that she and Audrey didn’t even know that they were playing a lesbian couple or their characters were accused of being lesbians. It was all so ‘hushed up’ sort of.

      Thanks for the link BD!
      And also thanks for providing the platform to discuss about dosti and gay and hindi films and thus leading to Indien, which is sort of opposite of Dosti! 😉

      • bollywoodeewana

        July 8, 2010 at 9:28 am

        Its a pleasure Harvey, Echte kerle is about two cops and yes you are right that is indeed the film

  5. bollywoodeewana

    July 7, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Oh just found out the film is on youtube

  6. sunheriyaadein

    July 7, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    It definitely sounds like a sweet film.
    But all in all a totally wonderful film! In the first half you shed tears of laughter and in the second half tears of sorrow and in both halves a mixture of both! And as an extra you get lots of information about the culinary habits of different cultures and native americans and reincarnation! – this part sounds like a must watch!

    • harvey

      July 7, 2010 at 10:23 pm

      It IS a sweet film!
      The lots of information part is the most funniest part, because a whole load of cliches are served!

  7. sophy

    July 8, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Oh Harvey, you live in Austira–in Vienna? I might visit later this year. We should get together for coffee and bolly chat.

    • harvey

      July 8, 2010 at 2:19 pm

      Hi sophy, no I don’t live in Vienna but Graz it is about 2,5 hrs away with the train.


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