Currently available on DVD from director Philipp Stolzl and Film Movement is a stunning story of the mind when telling the CHESS STORY.
Dr. Joseph Bartok (Oliver Mascucci) is living the life of a lawyer-notary in 1938 Austria with his love Anna (Birgit Minichmayr). Spending time with her, music, books and their nighttime parties is a wonderful existence. That is until the Nazis sweep in and begin to take Vienna apart piece by piece. Although he is warned to leave quickly, the Gestapo is quicker.
Bartok is taken to a hotel meeting the secret police operative Bohm (Albrecht Schuch). It is simply explained that he wants the codes that would access the bank accounts of several of the Austrian aristocracy. When Bartok makes it clear that he doesn’t know what Bohm is speaking about, Bartok is led away to a room in the hotel.
Bartok begins to understand that they are going to keep in locked away until he gives them what they want. The days begin to pass in solitary confinement where he is provided the very basic food and nothing else. He begins to lose track of time as a man once in the thick of society is left alone.
After one interrogation, Bartok is taken to his room but not before a ruckus breaks out. That’s when he sees a stack of books and grabs the first small one and hides it. Getting back to the room he discovers it is a book about chess, a game he is known for making jokes about. Drawn by something other than bare walls and silence, Bartok begins to read soaking in every word.
Then something begins to click in his head and he gets creative about how to play without his captors knowing. If he can not get away physically, he will mentally to stay alive. The game is on between one man and a war.
Mascucci as Bartok is a man who loves the finer things in life. When a friend warns him to leave Vienna, Bartok knows he has to do what is necessary to save Anna and then his clients. What happens next is a psychological voyage of wills, survival and where the mind can take a person under extreme circumstances. Mascucci is absolutely marvelous in this role keeping me riveted from the first frame until the last taking me through every range of emotion.
Minichmayr as Anna is so lovely and it is clear that Bartok is mad for her. This not a large role for Minichmayr, but her presence in the film is large and poignant. Schuch as Bohm is the man in control of the situation. Keeping his demeanor calm and unthreatening, he hopes to get the codes from Bartok. When that doesn’t happen, he is patient believing that how they are handling their “guests” will bring better results than the normal Gestapo handling.
Other cast include Dieter Bernhardt as Fahrer, Elias Gabele as Hafen, Rafael Stachowiak as Harry, Isa Hochgerner as Kochin, Johannes Zeiler as Dr. Fink, Markus Schleinzer as Dr. Auer, Clemens Berndorff as Dr. Swoboda, Lukas Miko as Gustav Sailer and Andreas Lust as Johann Prantl.
Film Movement, founded in 2002, is an award-winning independent and foreign film company that has released more than 250 feature films and shorts. Theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries, and foreign arthouse titles catalog such directors as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner and Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. Bluray and DVD films bring such directors as Eric Rohmer, Bolle August, King Hu, Sergio Corbucci and Luchino Visconti and many more. To discover what Film Movement is all about and find out more about what they have to offer please visit www.filmmovementplus.com.
Bonus Features include Introductory Essay by Writer and Curator Larry List and Bonus Short Film DER TUNNEL directed by Christoph Daniel and Marc Schmidheiny.
CHESS STORY is a stark film director Stolzl also directed NORTH FACE and THE PHYSICIAN brought to the screen through the novella written by Stefan Zweig.
This film is so beautifully done with a difficult background story. Mascucci carries the film filled with emotions, confusion, frustration, anger, fear and the difficulty between reality and what his mind is telling him. That is an intense thing to do and Mascucci brought me in effortlessly into those emotions and my jaw dropped a few times absolutely.
The cinematography and set designs are perfection for bringing in this 1930’s period piece. Stripping away the story from luxury to a barest room with only the mind left brings us all to a level that we cannot possibly imagine, so director Stolzl gives us a glimpse. The game of chess that Bartok thought so silly a game turns into a reason to live.
In the end – it is the story of his mind.