10 August 2007 | peter-1693
Fine and faithful film version of a great play
Of all the film versions of Schnitzler's play, this is far and away the most faithful both to the letter and the spirit of the original. (Though the celebrated Max Ophuls version, LA RONDE (1950), is the greater film, it takes extensive liberties with, and rather romanticises, Schnitzler's text.) Veteran Viennese director Otto Schenk is perfectly attuned to the cultural nuances of the play, and evokes a wholly credible and finely-textured recreation of his native city circa 1900, free of the usual clichés and sentimentality. Refreshingly, he roots the work in its specific historical time and place (even the Viennese accents sound right) and lets the brilliant text speak for itself. There is no "opening-out", and the dialogues are played out in their proper settings, which are very nicely realized.
In a departure from theatrical tradition, Schenk eschews blackouts or dissolves when it comes to the sex -- as it does in all but one of the ten two-handers that make up the cycle. Try as one might, the resulting bouts of matter-of-fact rumpy-pumpy call to mind the jolly German soft-core porn of the era, and do not entirely work; but it is a brave and worthwhile experiment, evidently undertaken in a Schnitzlerian spirit of frankness rather than out of a desire to "sex-up" a costume drama.
The strong ensemble cast do a generally fine job. The performance that stands out in every way is Maria Schneider's, as the "Sweet Young Girl": inspired casting and a luminous screen presence.
Sadly, the current version of the DVD (as at 2007) lacks English subtitles, so non-speakers of German may need to bone up beforehand with one of numerous available English translations of the play. It's worth the trouble, though.