Honorary Award for Director Joseph Vilsmaier 2017
2017 – a special year for Film Festival Kitzbuehel: For the first time it will bestow a Honorary Award. The award will go to the great director Joseph Vilsmaier for his lifework, including some German-Austrian co-productions. The audience can look forward to seeing film highlights by the director from Munich, such as “Die Geschichte vom Brandner Kaspar“ (2008), adapted from the famous Bavarian folk play of the same name. Using a lot of humor and fantastic elements Vilsmaier tells the popular story of the gunsmith Brandner Kaspar (Franz Xaver Kroetz) from Tegernsee, who outwits Death, called “Boandlkramer“ (Michael „Bully“ Herbig), by stealing further years of his life from him during a game of cards. The cast includes such popular actors as Lisa Maria Potthoff, Sebastian Bezzel, Jörg Hube, Herbert Knaup and Detlev Buck.
Joseph Vilsmaier is closely linked with FFKB anyway – for the festival’s premiere in 2013 he presented his award-winning film adaptation of the novel “Brother of Sleep“ (1995) together with the main actor André Eisermann, a year later his homage to the famous 1930s vocal ensemble “Comedian Harmonists“ (1997) was the center of attention, also with the cast present.
Even though Vilsmaier started out studying music and piano and completed a technical education at ARRI, he found his true life’s calling behind the camera: as director and DOP. His directorial debut “Autumn Milk“ (1988), featuring his future wife Dana Vávrová in the lead role, was an instant success. Ever since his unpretentious filmic adaptation of the memoirs of the Lower Bavarian farmer’s wife Anna Wimschneider he is regarded as the “revivalist of regional cinema“, which he proved once again with his feature film “Rama Dama“ (1991) about the tough post-war life in Munich. Whether it is drama or comedy, Joseph Vilsmaier has an excellent feel for any genre. He also directed TV movies like “Die Gustloff“ (2008) about the dramatic sinking of a German hospital and refugee ship in the Baltic Sea in 1945, or the thriller “Russian Roulette“ (2012) with Katharina Böhm and Heinz Hoenig in the lead roles.
Another of Vilsmaier’s cinematic highlights is the extravagantly staged anti-war drama “Stalingrad“ (1993), which portrays the devastating battle from a German battalion’s perspective. One year later he turned his attention to the filming of Erich Kaestner’s famous children’s book “Das doppelte Lottchen“. His modern version “Charlie & Louise – Das doppelte Lottchen“ he skilfully transferred the story into the present and thus created an internationally acclaimed, entertaining film with depth.
Vilsmaier’s film “Marlene“ (2000), featuring Katja Flint in the role of the German Hollywood icon Marlene Dietrich, won Best Film at the Hollywood Film Festival in Los Angeles. The film is based on the biography, which Dietrich’s daughter Maria Riva wrote. Vilsmaier once again turned to historical material when he made the film “Leo & Claire“, dealing with the sentencing of a Jewish businessman for “racial defilement“ – a legal scandal and the most prominent case of perversion of justice during the Nazi time. Another drama set during the time of the Nazi regime is “The Last Train“ (2006), which describes a brutal transport to the Auschwitz concentration camp employing merciless realism.
Taking on an entirely different subject matter is Vilsmaiers’ mountaineer drama “Nanga Parbat“ (2010). It is based on Reinhold Messner’s account of the failed expedition to Nanga Parbat in the Himalayas in 1970, during which his brother Günther was killed in an accident.
Joseph Vilsmaier’s awards, from the Bavarian Film Award (among others for “Stalingrad“) to the Honorary Cinematography Award for his lifework, are meanwhile filling an entire shelf of trophies.