Tag Archives: The Viennese

Freud’s Vienna

31 Aug

I’m not a compulsive seeker of Freud’s Vienna, but I do find articles and books interesting that address Freud’s complicated relationship with this city, so imagine my surprise to find the following lengthy article in the weekend edition of the International New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/31/travel/freuds-city-from-couch-to-cafes.html

Without doing any extensive fact-checking I can correct a few points:

– The university campus with the outdoor cafés Stephen Heyman writes about was, until about 15 years ago, the General Hospital. Freud would not have known it as a campus. The university as Freud knew it was centered around the building on the Ringstrasse, formerly on Dr-Karl-Lueger-Ring now on Universitätsring, a change of name rich in Viennese history.

– The “Narrenturm” on what is now the campus was revolutionary in its day (late 18th century) for its humane treatment of psychiatric patients. As I overheard one guide telling a group, many people who were treated in that facility would, before the “Narrenturm” existed, for example, have been burned at the stake as witches. Granted, psychiatric patients did have it somewhat easier after Freud and his pupils brought in their revolutionary theories, but it is all relative.

My favorite source for a quick fix of Freud’s Vienna is Frank Tallis. He is a practicing psychologist in the UK who has created a fascinating detective team of a Catholic detective inspector in the Viennese police and a Jewish pupil of Freud’s. Together they solve mysteries around opera singers and freemasons in turn-of-the-century Vienna, and when they are not solving crimes they are making music together. In the tradition of the day, the psychoanalyst is an accomplished amateur pianist and the police inspector has a lovely baritone voice.

See: http://www.franktallis.com/

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“The Third Man”

30 Aug

Do you immediately hear the zither music when you read that title? If so, you can look forward to some interesting trivia (as well as one person’s reminiscences of a long relationship with the film).

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can discover a quintessential film about life in Vienna right after the war (WWII, as one must specify in this city which has so much history).

Ah, “The Third Man”. Black and white. Based on the book (do we really believe it was a novel?) by Graham Greene. Directed by Carol Reed. Produced by David O. Selznick. Starring (a still young and relatively slender) Orson Welles as the elusive Harry Lime. Starring still more the city of Vienna c. 1947–“bombed about a bit,” as the English narrator tells us in the beginning. World premier: 65 years ago, on 31 August 1949.

My mother showed it to me when it was clear that I was moving here. Above all, she wanted me to experience the landlady played by Hedwig Bleibtreu because “you might end up with just such a landlady”. (In broadest Viennese dialect she said things like, “Das ist ein anständiges Haus. Hier hat sogar früher ein Metternich verkehrt” Translation: “This is a respectable house. In the olden days, even a Metternich [member of an old aristocratic family] came to visit.”)

My mother had forgotten, though, a treasured line (one of my favorites) from another great Austrian actor, Paul Hörbinger. He played the concierge in the house where Harry Lime lived.  When tired of and scared by questions about Harry Lime’s death, he says he won’t answer any more and adds very gruffly indeed, “Und jetzt gehen Sie. Sonst verliere ich meinen Wiener Charme.” (“And now leave–otherwise I’ll forget my Viennese charm.”) Even writing it down like this makes me laugh.

There are far too many such moments too relate here, and I don’t want to ruin any surprises for those who haven’t experienced it yet. If you are interested in Vienna, I simply encourage you to see it. If you’re in Vienna, you can catch it in the late show on weekends at the Burg Kino. For the time being, I’ll simply pass on some facts that were printed in today’s Kurier.

Part of what people remember best are the music (by great good fortune done by a zither player, Anton Karas, at the last minute when the budget was more or less exhausted) and the chase scenes through the sewer system of Vienna. To this day, you can take “Third Man” walking tours of Vienna including, indeed, a look underneath the commendably clean streets of the city.

First bit of trivia, over 100,000 people have already taken that tour. I’m assuming the tour does not cover all 2,400 kilometers of that system, especially since only 25 meters were used for filming. This year Tom Cruise, who just finished filming in Vienna, took it.

“The Third Man” won the Academy Award(R) for “Best black-and-white picture” and was nominated for two others. Apparently in 2012, film critics named it the “Best British Film of All Time”.

That may have made worthwhile to Reed and Selznick that they apparently only slept two hours per night for the seven weeks they were filming on location. The Kurier reports that they kept themselves awake by taking a drug called dexedrine, better known as speed(!).

The unfortunate Anna Schmidt (Harry Lime’s paramour) was played by Alida Valli, an actress ironically descended from  an old Austro-Italian aristocratic family, possibly as important as the Metternichs ;-). She died in Rome in 2006 at the age of 84.

Five years ago was the first talk of a re-make, which supposedly would star Leonardo DiCaprio as Harry Lime and Tobey Maguire as Lime’s faithful friend Holly Martins. I’m not a fan of re-makes, but I think those two would be well cast, at least. Don’t know what they’ll do about the City of Vienna, though. Most of the bombed out bits have been re-built in the last 65 years.

The famous music was #1 on the U.S. charts for weeks in 1950. The next Austrian artist to achieve this feat was Falco in 1986 with “Rock Me Amadeus”.

To give you a bit of a taste, here is the opening scene, with fantastic running commentary from Major Calloway, the devastatingly attractive if unattainable British narrator, played by Trevor Howard:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fja9kwTl_jU

For people who have already seen the film, here is the unforgettable cuckoo clock speech:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WS-JcaPFzp4

With thanks to Bernhard Praschl of the Kurier, who wrote the article from which most of these tidbits were drawn.

Wine trip

4 Oct

I am on my way out of Vienna for the weekend to do one of the things the Viennese like to do on sunny fall weekends. I am going to the Kamptal to enjoy the fresh air and good wine. One thing that has already struck me is how full – and yet quiet – the train is. Lots of people, businesspeople and students alike, commute to Vienna by train and it seems that by midday on Friday they are willing to call it a week and go home. Not such a bad idea, if you ask me.

How to tell the museums apart

1 Feb

A joke just sent to me by a friend for people who know the layout of the Ringstrasse:

Franzi (a little boy) asks his father, “Papa, how can you tell the Museum of Art History from the Museum of Natural History?” (In Vienna they face each other across the statue of the great Empress Maria Teresia.)

His father answers, “That’s very easy, Franzi. The Museum of Art History is about art and culture and that is near the opera. In the Museum of Natural History you find asses and monkeys. And that is near the Parliament building!”

The Viennese and their weather

19 Dec

It occurred to me that those of you who have never lived in Vienna might wonder why I have a special tag for the weather. That is because we have a lot of it in Vienna. 😉 At least, the Viennese are very aware of their weather and talk about it a lot–not in the way the British do, as a kind of safe subject for small talk, but as an explanation, not to say excuse, for all kinds of things. Everybody is short-tempered? Must be the weather. You’re tired even though you slept well last night? Must be the weather. You’re dizzy? Guess what. Must be the weather.

There is, in fact, one weather phenomenon known to cause some physcial symptoms–Föhn. This is more common in Innsbruck, but that doesn’t stop the Viennese from talking about it. I once had the joyful job of trying to explain Föhn (pronounced rather the way Inspector Clouseau as played by Peter Sellars pronounced “phone”) to a group of American visitors. At the time I believed, because my Viennese friends had told me this, that it was a hot wind coming up from northern Africa. Now there is Wikipedia and I can tell you with authority that it is a “warmer trockener Fallwind” or a warm dry wind that comes down over a mountain (great diagram at: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallwind). What does it feel like? Perhaps it helps to mention that Austrians use the word Föhn for  “hairdryer”  rather than the more standard Haartrockner.

But what does it do, this warm dry wind coming down off the mountain? The most common complaint associated with Föhn is headache. But sometimes you also hear of someone suffering from a Kreislaufzusammenbruch (Kreislauf = circulatory system; Zusammenbruch = breakdown). The first time a business partner called to cancel an appointment because she was suffering from Kreislaufzusammenbruch I gasped and said, “Are you calling from the hospital? Can I do anything to help?” She was audibly amused and said no she was at home but not up to a meeting. Life-threatening as it sounds, Kreislaufzusammenbruch does not usually require medical intervention. It makes the sufferer feel dizzy and miserable, but is not usually serious and is usually quite short-lived. (The circulatory system, by the way, is to German speakers what the  liver is to the French. We have Kreislaufzusammenbrüche; they have crises de foie.)

In spite of my New England upbringing, where external factors are seldom an excuse for falling down on the job, I notice that I have lived in Vienna long enough to feel it, too. Got a headache? Must be the Föhn!

One CITY. One BOOK.

27 Nov

I am finally catching up with the “One CITY. One BOOK” initiative of the City of Vienna, among others, which is in its 11th year. (I’m a bit slow about these things!)

The way it works is that the mayor of Vienna together with a team of people from echo medienhaus select a book they feel is relevant to the people of Vienna. 100,000 extra copies of this book are printed and then distributed for free at all kinds of different venues. I picked mine up this morning at the bank across the street from me.

This year’s book is “A Hand Full of Stars” by Rafik Schami, a Syrian (how is that for timely?) author of considerable renown in the German-speaking world. He has lived in Germany for over 40 years, received an overwhelming number of prizes for his books, and still wakes up every morning (he said in an interview) wishing he could walk through the streets of Damascus, his hometown.

As I walked home this morning with my bright, new copy in my hand adages about money and the value of things were running through my head. “You get what you pay for” was one. Hardly relevant here, it seems. I have paid nothing and received a book that promises to be a very good read. The next one was “People don’t value what they get for free.” This one is only appropriate–as far as I can see–in the sense that I first heard it in reference to psychoanalysis, the founder of which was Viennese. 😉

The next saying that went through my head was “Put your money where your mouth is.” This, finally, seemed to fit. The City of Vienna wants people to read–perhaps also wants total strangers to reach out to one another and ask “What did you think of the book?”–and is willing to support the initiative knowing that when people read the same books they suddenly share a language.

Perhaps the name of the initiative should be: One BOOK. One CITY.

Viennese dialect and I

21 Jul

For years I have fondly been telling myself that I understand Viennese dialect. (I have even learned to say a few phrases.) This belief has been based on a certain facility to understand what is said in Hans Moser* films and has been supported by Viennese friends who speak high German with me, albeit with a Viennese accent. One thing about walking Mylo, though, is that I run into people who have no idea that I am a foreigner and who speak with me as they speak with other Viennese. And I understand, if I am lucky, about half of what they are saying! Quite a shock just before the 24th anniversary of my arrival in this city.

*  A wonderful Viennese stage and film actor (1880-1964) who often played the concierge or a similar role and was famous for his melancholic demeanor and how indistinctly he spoke.