Friday April 24, 1998
Austrian filmmaker Reinhard Schwabenitzky's "Hannah" is a quirky, decidedly original political thriller that's as amusing as it is deadly serious.
In the title role, Elfi Eschke is about as aggressive a heroine as you could imagine. Determined to land the director of marketing position at a venerable toy manufacturing company, she strides into its palatial 19th century rural headquarters and bursts unannounced into the magnificent, darkly paneled office of the director (Jurgen Hentsch).
She knows very well that she may have blown her chances with her battering-ram approach, but it's a point of honor for her to stay true to her bombastic self. As it turns out, the director appreciates assertive individuals and realizes at once his century-old family concern could benefit from Hannah's fresh ideas. Hannah's honesty and directness also attract the director's starchy nephew (August Zirner), his second in command, and no sooner does Hannah have a job but also, unexpectedly, a lover. She has also landed in a hotbed of neo-Nazis.
Romantic comedy between two very different individuals swiftly turns into a chiller as Hannah begins uncovering some exceedingly nasty truths about the toy company and its proprietors. As brash as she is, Hannah is not so abrasive as to keep us from liking her and worrying about escalating danger that threatens to engulf her as she commences playing detective. That the nephew should really be smitten with Hannah seems a bit of stretch, but Schwabenitzky persuades us pretty well that their romance is a classic case of opposites attracting.
For years, Eschke has been Schwabenitzky's muse and closest collaborator, and there is no question that the strong ties between star and director contribute crucially to gliding "Hannah" past any and all improbabilities with warmth and conviction.
Hannah, 1998. Unrated. A Star-Film Verleih production. Director Reinhard Schwabenitzky. Screenplay by Susanne Ayoub and Schwabenitzky; based on a story by Schwabenitzky. Cinematographer Fabian Eder. Editor Ingrid Koller. Music Hannes M. Schalle. Production designer Kuly Sander. Set decorators Barbara Demmer, Mario Hoffmann. In German with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 59 minutes. Elfi Eschke as Hannah. August Zirner as Wolfgang Heck. Jurgen Hentsch as Dr. Thomas Hochstedt. Max Tidof as Pollak.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun