Nordrand. 1999. Austria. Written and directed by Barbara Albert. In German; English subtitles. 103 min.
With Nina Proll, Edita Malovcic, Astrit Alihajdaraj. This critically acclaimed and widely seen debut feature by 29-year-old Barbara Albert was the first and most comprehensive in a series of films renewing Austrian cinema’s penchant for depicting self-destructive characters who teeter between desire and desperation. Uncool, uncalm, and very uncollected, Albert’s protagonists also suggest some buried, misdirected utopian energy. The story of Jasmin (Nina Proll), a white-trash queen from the projects who gives herself freely to the men around her, and her long-forgotten classmate Tamara (Edita Malovcic), the Viennese-born-and-raised daughter of Serbian immigrants, is woven into a tapestry of contemporary Vienna that certifies the city as a genuine melting pot for the first time since the 1930s. Jasmin’s and Tamara’s lovers include a young smartass from Romania who dreams about making it big in America, a soldier who has to guard the Austrian border from “illegal“ foreigners, and a Bosnian refugee who has managed to slip into the country at night. The fragile forms of solidarity among these characters convey their shared social/political marginalization—precisely at the moment when the right-wing coalition led by Jörg Haider’s racist Freedom Party had taken office. Austria’s politics have brightened since then, but Albert’s film still stands as a major achievement in cinema history, with its incisive look at life on Vienna’s wintry and unglamorous north side; its use of music and visual movement to portray a generation on the run; and the radiating intensity of its two lead actresses, with Proll winning the Marcello Mastroianni Award at the Venice Film Festival for her performance. Courtesy Lotus-Film.