Ah, Vienna. Motherland to Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Strauss. Café society of Freud, Einstein, Klimt, Schiele. The Habsburg palaces. The Baroque churches. The rococo flourishes. Second only to Paris as the romantic capital of Europe.
The romance of Vienna has not been lost on filmmakers who set their most heartwrenching scenes against the backdrop of the great Austrian city. Outside of Beethoven biopics, no two films have used Vienna, as both a setting and a character, better than Before Sunrise and La Ronde.
Before Sunrise (1994)
Director Richard Linklater took a slight departure from his earlier features, Slacker and Dazed and Confused with this dulcet, charming romance starring Ethan Hawke as Jesse, an American abroad, and Julie Delpy as Celine, a French student. Jesse and Celine meet on the Budapest-Vienna train and decide to explore Vienna together on a layover. Conversing through the night, Jesse and Celine fall in love, the worst, most painful kind of love affair, the kind where he is bound for his return to the States in a few hours. Even if you bury the romantic in you underneath a dungheap of macho bullshit, this film will warm the cockles of your heart.
La Ronde (1950)
Although he is best known for his dramatic fare like the extraordinary Lola Montes, Madame de…, A Letter from an Unknown Woman, and Liebelei, director Max Ophuls tackled comedy with aplomb in this adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s mercury-paced farce, Circle of Love. Set in Vienna, 1900, La Ronde follows the elliptical path of amorous encounters as Franz, the Soldier (Serge Reggiani) solicits Leocadie, the Prostitute (Simone Signoret). Franz then has an affair with The Maid (Simone Simon), who will seduce Alfred (Daniel Gelin), the man of the house. Alfred, in turn, entices Emma Breitkopf (Danielle Darrieux), who is married to Charles (Fernand Gravey), who…well, you get the dirty picture. This is delightfully ribald fun at its European best.