Screening Transcendence

Screening Transcendence

Film under Austrofascism and the Hollywood Hope, 1933-1938
Robert Dassanowsky
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 05/01/2018
Format: Hardback 62 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-03362-8
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During the 1930s, Austrian film production companies developed a process to navigate the competing demands of audiences in Nazi Germany and those found in broader Western markets. In Screening Transcendence, film historian Robert Dassanowsky explores how Austrian filmmakers during the Austrofascist period (1933–1938) developed two overlapping industries: "Aryanized" films for distribution in Germany, its largest market, and "Emigrantenfilm," which employed émigré and Jewish talent that appealed to international audiences.

Through detailed archival research in both Vienna and the United States, Dassanowsky reveals what was culturally, socially, and politically at stake in these two simultaneous and overlapping film industries. Influenced by French auteurism, admired by Italian cinephiles, and ardently remade by Hollywood, these period Austrian films demonstrate a distinctive regional style mixed with transnational influences.

Combining brilliant close readings of individual films with thoroughly informed historical and cultural observations, Dassanowsky presents the story of a nation and an industry mired in politics, power, and intrigue on the brink of Nazi occupation.

Author Bio

Robert Dassanowsky is Professor of German/Austrian Studies and Film at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, as well as an independent film producer. He is author of Austrian Cinema: A History and editor of World Film Locations: Vienna and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds: A Manipulation of Metafilm.


“[Screening Transcendence] tracks popular film production...classifies its genres, and then shows how each was edited/adapted to conform to shifting political winds, especially in that small window when 'Austria' was an independent democracy, before the Anschluss formally joined them to Germany. The result is a detailed, compelling picture of a culture industry trying to survive under the growing threat and then implementation of Nazi fascism.”
 — Katherine Arens, author of Vienna's Dreams of Europe: Culture and Identity Beyond the Nation-State

“Highly recommended. ”
 — Choice

Screening Transcendence is so rich and informative that a short review can barely do justice to this important and interesting monograph. There is no doubt that this is a book that everyone interested in Austria during the 1930s should read.”
 — Journal of Austrian Studies

Screening Transcendence undoubtedly constitutes a major contribution to the study of Austrian Cinema.....This little known episode in film history which Dassanowsky has uncovered ... tells of the unfolding drama of the Austrians' attempt to work with Hollywood studios in an effort to escape German pressure. He attributes the failure of an Austrian-Hollywood partnership to the American industry's commercial interests and its fear of offending German markets, as well as the strong German influence in Hollywood. Screening Transcendence does a great service by introducing this era to English-reading audiences... utterly fascinating....    ”
 — Contemporary Austrian Studies

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Table of Contents



Part I: Structures

1. System of Faith and Aesthetics of Loss: Austrian Cultural Politics in the First Republic and the Christian Corporate State

2. Scopic Regimes: Notes on Newsreel and Culture Film Production, the Legacy of Baroque and Fin de Siècle Vienna, and Political Catholicism in Public Spectacle

3. Against Nazism and with Catholicism? Two Film Industries and the Jewish Filmmaker's Conundrum

Part II: Genres and Types

4. Cinema Baroque: Reconsidering the Willi Forst/Walter Reisch Viennese Film Genre and its Trans/National/ist Value

5. Projecting Transcendence: Emigrantenfilm, the Church, and the Construction of a Catholic-Political Identity in Singende Jugend and Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld

6. Gendering the Crusade: Female Types and Sexuality in Feature Film

7. Tales of the Patriarchy: Of Cavaliers, Cads, and the Common Man

8. Reasonable Fantasies: Cine-Operetta, the Sängerfilm, and Sociocritical Music Film

9. New Order Out of Chaos: The Austrian Screwball and Hybrid Comedy

10. Contemporary Conflicts: Experimentalism, Controversy, and the Question of National Film Style

11. Snow Blinded: The Alps versus Vienna in Film at the End of the Regime

Part III: Locations

12. From Rome to the Hollywood Hope: Shared Aesthetics, the 1936/37 Vienna-Hollywood Co-Production Plan, and Cine-Economic Brinkmanship with Berlin


Filmography: List of Austrian Feature Films 1933-1938