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!