After a lengthy flight involving several delays to Vienna, where I was serving on the International Critics Jury for the Vienna Film Festival, we were greeted at the baggage claim by a large armchair that moved about and spoke to people. It would sneak up on passengers from behind, saying things that I could not make out despite having taken two years of German in grad school, at times pursuing people who fled, alarmed or irritated. One elderly woman sat down and rode the chair for several minutes.
Whether performance art or dubious security system, the chair in a way captured the spirit of Vienna over the ages: opulent, well-upholstered, baroque, somewhat uncanny, and vaguely intimidating. It also served as a good introduction to "Folge Mir," by first-time Austrian director Johannes Hammel, one of the films in competition. It opens with what seems almost a parody of what one expects from avant garde European movies: a parade or celebration of crowds in costume, a young woman with two children in giant hideous masks, one of the revellers attacking the woman with handfuls of confetti, the woman in a long take for several minutes looking angusihed and smoking cigarettes, all shot in alternating color and blaack and white photography. I was amused later by the character of a religious teacher later on in the film who tormented young students with absurd, sadistic strictures and readings from the catechism of the title. The Austrian member of the jury, however, dismissed this as a cliche.