The Inheritors

The Inheritors


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Peasants can't be farmers. At least, not in Austria after the Great War. Landowners take a poor view of bumptious behavior from the groveling classes. "If you said more than five words," the narrator explains, "you'd be called a good-for-nothing blabber mouth."

When the old farmer is murdered by a mysterious woman in black, his workers do not grieve. When the will is read out, local gentry cannot believe their ears. He leaves his worldly goods - house, animals, equipment - to his peasants on the assumption that they will make a mess of it and start beating each other over the head with hay forks. They don't, thanks to Emmy (Sophie Rois), tough-minded, free-living girlfriend of Lukas (Simon Schwarz), "the changeling", a good natured boy of 24. She takes on the might of the feudal hierarchy, who stop at nothing to destroy this seven-strong commune's endeavour.

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What has been called "an Alpine Western" is far less formulaic and more character based than anything Hollywood might dream up. The photography (Peter von Haller) is beautiful, without indulging picture postcard romantics. Farm life is hard. You see this and you see the light across the meadow as dawn breaks, when men with guns gather to hunt Lukas down. Writer/director Stefan Ruzowitzky has exacted striking performances from an exceptional cast, with Schwarz's wayward innocent outstanding. The script is emotionally raw, uncovering wounds of ancient abuse as well as celebrating the illusion of freedom. Love is brief, days are long, work has a different meaning. Farmers have never been sentimental. Neither is Ruzowitzky.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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A murdered farmer leaves all his worldly goods to the peasants... but will they cope?
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Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky

Writer: Stefan Ruzowitsky

Starring: Simon Schwarz, Sophie Rois, Lars Rudolph, Geschnitzer, Ulrich Wildgruber

Year: 1997

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Austria


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