Austrian Professor Critiques Hollywood Narrative on Alpine Life

Tessa Lemke ‘21, Contributing Writer

The German department hosted a screening and lecture of the critically acclaimed Austrian film “The Dark Valley” and drew in an audience of roughly 50 people to each event. 

The screening and lecture took place on two separate days. During the Feb. 11 film screening, associate Professor of German Kamaal Haque made opening remarks He then introduced the guest speaker for the night, Dr. Christian Quendler. Quendler is a professor of American studies and film & media studies at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. 

The film centers around an American photographer named Greider who visits the Austrian Alps. He is given lodging by a widow and her daughter in a town that us wholly controlled by a wealthy man and his sons. The story then follows a revenge arc including Greider and the wealthy family in the town that was responsible for the death and displacement of his mother, who fled to America.  

Quendler then presented a lecture on Feb. 13 about the uses of clichés between Alpine and Western movies to present a less romanticized view of Alpine culture. “When imagining Austria, one might immediately think of the scenery shown in the 1965 movie The Sound of Music; however, this representation is rather idealizing than displaying the real Austria,” said Quendler. 

Quendler then explained that the popularity of The Sound of Music is not as high in Austria or the rest of the world as it is in the U.S. He said, “I was almost 35 years old when I saw the first production of The Sound of Music.” 

The film takes place in 19th century Austria and presents a realist depiction of life at the time. Quedler explained that Hollywood movies tend to romanticize and isolate Austrian life from the rest of the world.  

According to Haque, the German Department invited Quendler to share his expert opinion on Austrian Film. Haque is currently teaching a course on Austrian Literature and Film.

A majority of students in attendance were from the German department and gave positive remarks about the lecture. “It [the lecture] showed me a lot about Austrian culture that I didn’t even consider,” Kat Usavage ’23 said. 

The event was sponsored by the Max Kade Institute of Cultural German Studies and the Dickinson College Department of German. The film screening took place on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. in Tome 115, and the subsequent lecture, “Wild Wild Alps: Transatlantic Exchanges of Mountain Cinema” took place on Thursday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. in Althouse 106. 

Additional reporting done by Shane Shuma ‘22