From The Third Man to Mission Impossible, Vienna’s stock as a film location is on the rise internationally. The capital also has a rich variety of cinemas and film festivals to its credit.
The Third Man is one of the best known films to feature Vienna in a starring role, with the Giant Ferris Wheel, the subterranean sewer network and Anton Karas’s haunting zither score all featuring prominently. Based on the novel of the same name by Graham Greene and directed by Carol Reed, this masterpiece of 1940s British cinema presents an unflinchingly honest picture of a post-war Vienna on its knees. Today the city has its very own Third Man Museum and there are tours of the key locations, even including a trip down the sewers. 1973 US spy thriller Scorpio, saw special agent Cross (Burt Lancaster) pursue Jean “Scorpio” Laurier (Alain Delon) through a subway construction site on Karlsplatz. The Living Daylights (1987), starring Timothy Dalton as James Bond, featured a romantic kiss on the Giant Ferris Wheel and a horse-drawn carriage ride through the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace. Before Sunrise by Richard Linklater also featured several loving embraces. This 1995 cult classic charts the touching love story between American tourist Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and French student Celine (Julie Delpy), who spend a day and a night together in the Austrian capital.
Vienna is particularly in demand as a film set among directors on the lookout for an authentic fin-de-siècle ambience. In one such example, Café Central in the historic old town was among the locations for Klimt (2006), Raoul Ruiz’s silver screen portrait of celebrated Viennese Art Nouveau painter Gustav Klimt, starring John Malkovich and Veronica Ferres. In A Dangerous Method (2011) by David Cronenberg, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) eat Sachertorte with whipped cream at Café Sperl and go for a stroll through the grounds of the Belvedere palace. Woman in Gold (2015, directed by Simon Curtis, with Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl and Katie Holmes) about US art collector Maria Altmann and five Klimt paintings from the Belvedere which were restituted in 2006, shows the Konzerthaus, Rathaus and Academy of Fine Arts.
One of the latest blockbusters to be filmed in Vienna, Mission: Impossible 5 (2015), sees Tom Cruise and leading lady Rebecca Ferguson jump from the roof of the Vienna State Opera on to the Ringstrasse below – dressed in formal evening wear.
A series of kitsch but beautiful Vienna motifs in the Sissi films (1955-57) by Viennese director Ernst Marischka live on in many people’s hearts. The legendary trilogy tracking the life and times of Empress Elisabeth – with a young Romy Schneider as Sissi and Karlheinz Böhm as Emperor Franz Joseph – is one of the most successful German-language films of all time. Among the countless scenes shot in Vienna were the wedding in the Michaelerkirche church, with others filmed at the legendary Rosenhügel film studio using original furnishings from the capital’s palaces. These props are the subject of a permanent exhibition at the Imperial Furniture Collection in the seventh district, entitled Sissi in Film.
Service and funding: Vienna Film Commission and Filmfonds Wien
Since its foundation in 2009, the Vienna Film Commission has been the go-to address for film-makers in the Austrian capital. Run by the city council, it provides local and international directors with all the support they need for their Vienna shoots. It helps producers secure permits, find the ideal sets and locations, and puts them in touch with industry partners. The Vienna Film Commission also works to promote the city as a film location on the international stage. Its website (www.viennafilmcommission.at) includes an extensive image database and industry directory.
Filmfonds Wien’s overarching aim is to promote Vienna as a film and media location and enhance its reputation as an international film-making hub. Vienna City Council’s funding arm awards grants for project development, production and distribution. The applications are evaluated based on their cultural, artistic and cinematic merit for the capital’s film-making industry. Vienna contributed around EUR 11.8 million to the Filmfonds Wien in 2013.