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Movie Review of “Mountain Blood” (“Bergblut”)

1809, South Tyrol

Writer and director Philipp Pamer has come out with the best historical epic since Braveheart in his depiction of the Tyrolian uprising of 1809 in Mountain Blood (Bergblut.) The film takes on the same topic as that of 1932’s Der Rebell.

A South Tyrolian, Pamer began working on Mountain Blood at age 21 while studying in Munich. This is now-25 year-old-Pamer’s graduation movie. To say it is impressive is to vastly understate the case.

Set in the 1800s when Napoleon’s French ruled Europe, the masterpiece follows young Austrian carpenter Franz and his Bavarian wife, Katharina as an unforeseen event forces them to flee from Augsburg, Bavaria for Franz’s family home in Tyrol, Austria. Tyrolian sentiment is rising strongly against Napoleon and trouble is stirring. In no time it sweeps up Franz and his brothers along with the whole town.

Unfortunately Katharina’s Bavarian background brings animosity from her new family and the villagers, as she represents to the locals the conflict with Bavaria that existed before the occupation of the French, as well as the current Bavarian collaboration with Napoleon. Inga Birkenfeld as Katharina brings the kind of power and depth necessary for her character in a standout performance.

Historical rebel Andreas Hofer (Claus Gurschler) comes alive onscreen as he leads the Tiroler Volksaufstand or Tyrolian rebellion against Napoleon. (Links may contain movie spoilers as they reveal historical outcomes). The wardrobe and manner of characters is realistic throughout the film. Even small details of historical female hairstyles and natural medicines of the area are adhered to accurately.

Franz's family home high in the mountains.

“Mountain Blood” is shot on original locations with engaging performances that inhabit the atmosphere of an older time and culture. The film perhaps belongs in the realm of the Heimatfilm (homeland film) genre, a German film style of the postwar late 1940s-1970s that usually takes place in idyllic settings and extols the virtues of rural life and moral goodness. Family, friendship and true love are almost always the main subject, with clearly-defined good and bad roles contesting each other for the eventual triumph of the good. Of course when the messiness of historical reality meets the idealism of a simpler way of life, hearts can break, answers can be muddled and beauty can be overwhelming. Part of the genius of Pamer and “Mountain Blood” is the way it takes such a complex, gritty, historical narrative and lets its varied hues shine through the characteristic framing of emotional imagery and moral ethos of the Heimatfilm ideal.

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