Die Gstettensaga: The Rise of Echsenfriedl


The latest film by Johannes Grenzfurthner is set in a post-atomic future born from the ashes of the Google-war, a destructive global war of the twenty-first century between the two last superpowers: China and Google. “Social developments confront us with new tasks. Now we are dealing with nerds”. These are the words of Thurnher von Pjölk the evil monopolist of print, declaring his expansionist ambitions in a world of new technologies. The two main characters are Fratt Aigner, a whiny journalist, and Alalia Grundschober, infodesigner, idealist and geek. Engaging with the threat of von Pjölk they are confronted with a very difficult mission: to reach and interview Echsenfriedl, the mysterious leader of the nerd community that lives in the obscure and lawless lands bordering the Megacity Schwechat. No one knows if he really exists, but he is becoming famous as the inventor of a brand new communication system, the tele-O-Vision, which von Pjölk wants to appropriate. This is an epic tale (complete with picture book styling and narrative voiceover) that emphasizes the idea of a distant world, despite the fairly realistic premises upon which it is based. The wacky adventures of the two protagonists meander through well-known film genres, from zombie to noir, from musicals to horror, with a narrative pattern drawing on fantasy. Each stage of the journey corresponds to meetings with absurd characters with incomprehensible languages ​​and bizarre behaviour. All the stalemates and dangers are gradually overcome, often thanks to a creative use of technology (it seems that laser pointers are excellent weapons against zombies). At other times the use of DIY solutions is crucial and they are often accompanied by emphatically delicious MIDI sounds. These two aspects are traditionally associated with the imaginary universe of “nerds”.  In the movie they are constantly portrayed as a source of extreme solutions. This mechanism is so emphasized that it seems undermine part of their identification in fiction as a form of “magic elixir” that can resolve any (real or imagined) situation. Even the valiant rebellion of the nerds against von Pjölk does not seem to be a decisive blow to the original story, especially for Fratt and Alalia. Both heroes, despite their wonderful adventure, do not change their condition; they remain closely tied to a dystopian power structure that only appears to change, a culture that remains impervious to virtuosity and technological innovation that comes from below.