Programme

STYX

Wolfgang Fischer

Germany, Austria, 2018 / 94 min / German and English OV with German subt. (DE & EN OV with DE subt.) / Drama

A woman faces a moral dilemma whilst travelling alone at sea.

Rieke, a doctor from Europe, embodies a typical Western model of happiness and success. She is educated, confident, determined and committed. Rieke has long held a dream of sailing out alone in her sailing boat, which she is now finally able to fulfill. Alone, she puts out to sea. Her goal: Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean. But her dream holiday is quickly broken off on the high seas, when, after a storm, she finds herself near a stricken fishing boat. Around a hundred people are about to drown. Rieke follows maritime law and radios for help. As her request is going nowhere, she is forced to make a momentous decision.

“The film’s immersive sound design and atmosphere of mounting dread places the audience at the centre of the action with Rieke as she sails into an impossible situation. As she does, Fischer raises questions about empathy, privilege, racism and personal responsibility.” (Kate Taylor, London Film Festival, 2018)

“Fischer and Kuenzel here create a documentary reality that simultaneously functions as an allegory about the West’s ambivalence toward the refugee crisis. […] Admirably, the director maintains the documentary illusion throughout, opting for a third act that finds exactly the right, understated tone, neither glorifying Rike’s role, nor underplaying the character’s more than obvious compassion […] Carrying practically the entire film, Wolff is never less than remarkable in a demanding role that’s 80 percent silence and 20 percent English-language dialogue. The fully inhabited turn should further help cement her international status as a star to be reckoned with.” Boyd van Hoeij, Hollywood-Reporter, 16/02/2018

“Offering little in terms of exposition and even less when it comes to dialogue, Fischer’s sophomore effort develops character and, eventually, unsettling moral questions entirely through action, playing as a more consciously political companion piece to J.C. Chandor’s similarly taciturn All Is Lost. It’s engrossing, if (somewhat ironically, considering the open sea setting) dry fare made by and for stalwarts of the European academic set. Styx could easily sail through other high-minded festivals, and will ultimately find port in niche, art-house cinemas – particularly in markets most familiar with lead actress Susanne Wolff and unafraid of fraught moral stalemates.” Ben Croll, ScreenDaily, 17/02/2018

“Like the small sailboat on which it is set, Wolfgang Fischer’s extraordinarily gripping account of a one-woman solo voyage across the Atlantic that is suddenly interrupted when she comes across a sinking trawler overloaded with refugees, is brisk, efficient and thrillingly dynamic. Setting up a provocative and impossible moral quandary amid fathomless blue waters and infinite horizons, the lean narrative is further sculpted by Susanne Wolff’s exceptional, physical performance, radiating capability and expertise, but also the ethical agony of a doctor unable to help those in need. The allegory in relation to Western inaction over the crisis is pointed, but the visceral elegance of the filmmaking spares us any didacticism, instead delivering the lesson straight into the veins.” Jessica Kiang, Variety, 24/02/2018

“Watching this one-woman-show of intense physical prowess is so absorbing that it’s a double shock when she happens upon an overloaded refugee boat and the film’s sails are suddenly fat with intractable dilemma. This is All Is Lost with a spinning moral compass and a topical dimension that proves even more gripping than its brilliantly achieved visceral action.” Jessica Kiang, Variety 24/02/2018

Styx brilliantly portrays the moral decision facing us all in light of the ever-escalating refugee crisis. Environmental catastrophe spurred in no small part by America’s stubborn reliance on fossil fuels has caused various parts of the world to become increasingly uninhabitable, forcing those who live there to seek a new home, only to be confronted with one border wall after another. Are we to let these souls in need drown as a result of xenophobic protocol or should we lend a hand?” Matt Fagerholm, RogerEbert.com, 02/10/2018

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+15
Awards
  • Special Prize of the Jury, Batumi International ArtHouse Film Festival, 2018 (Georgia)
  • Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Panorama, Berlin International Film Festival, 2018 (Germany)
  • Label Europa Cinemas Award, Berlin International Film Festival, 2018 (Germany)
  • Heiner Carow Prize, Berlin International Film Festival, 2018 (Germany)
  • Creative Energy Award for Best Creative Performance, Emden International Film Festival, 2018 (Germany)
  • Special Mention (Golden Puffin, Reykjavik International Film Festival, 2018 (Iceland)
  • Flying Ox for Best Sound Mixing, Schwerin Art of Film Festival, 2018 (Germany)
  • Flying Ox for Best Feature, Schwerin Art of Film Festival, 2018 (Germany)
  • Audience Award, Schwerin Art of Film Festival, 2018 (Germany)
  • Triton Award Best Cinematographer for Benedict Neuenfels, Valletta Film Festival, 2018 (Malta)
  • Triton Award Best Actress for Susanne Wolff, Valletta Film Festival, 2018 (Malta)
  • 2nd place, European Parliament LUX Prize, 2018 (Europe)
  • Best Director - Wolfgang Fischer, Austrian Film Award, 2019 (Austria)
  • Best Script, Austrian Film Award, 2019 (Austria)
  • Best Editing, Austrian Film Award, 2019 (Austria)
Cast & Credits
Cast 
Susanne Wolff, Gedion Oduor Wekesa, Felicity Babao, Alexander Beyer, Inge Birkenfeld, Anika Menger
Screenplay 
Wolfgang Fischer, Ika Künzel
Cinematographer 
Benedict Neuenfels
Sound 
Uwe Dresch, Andre Zimmermann
Set 
Wolfgang Fischer, Ika Künzel, Benedict Neuenfels
Music 
Dirk von Lowtzow
Production 
Schiwago Film
Coproduction 
Amour Fou Vienna
Distribution 
Imagine Film Distribution
Biography

Wolfgang Fischer was born in 1970 in Vienna, Austria. He studied psychology and painting at the University of Vienna, followed by film studies at the Art Academy of Düsseldorf and at the Academy of Media Arts (KHM) in Cologne. Besides various teaching assignments he was worked as an assistant for Paul Morrissey and Nan Hoover. He was awarded a scholarship by the Munich Screenplay Programme and by eQuinoxe Europe. After a first experimental film, In Time (1994), the shorts 9h11 (1999) and Grau (2001), the music video Disk – Dusk (1999), as well as a documentary, Remake of the Remake (1999), he tried his hands at his first fiction feature What You Don’t See in 2009.

Filmography
  • 2018 – Styx
  • 2013 – The Bear
  • 2009 – Was du nicht siehst
  • 2001 – Grau (short)
  • 1999 – 9h11 (short)
  • 1999 – Remake of the Remake (documentary)
  • 1999 – In Time (short)