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Screening Vienna: The City of Dreams in English-Language Cinema and Television By Ti ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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Screening Vienna: The City of Dreams in English-Language Cinema and Television

Introduction

The Contexts

In 2006, Neil Burger’s The Illusionist, a film about a late nineteenth-century magician in Vienna, opened in my hometown. Because I had twice spent six months lecturing in Vienna on American literature and had visited the city at least once a year since 1991, I was eager to see how the film would represent the city that I thought I knew so well. As my friends and I watched the film, I pointed out all the Vienna landmarks that were so familiar to me. My friends were annoyed but a bit impressed, that is, until the credits. The Illusionist, it turns out, was shot entirely in Prague. My friends were again annoyed, but no longer impressed.

However, I was puzzled. The city on the screen seemed so Viennese, and I seemed so certain. How had the film, and my own viewing, transformed Prague to Vienna? Who else had wrought such a representation, such an illusion, and what explained my own reception of that representation and that illusion?

It seemed that I had a debt to pay—to my friends, to Vienna, and to myself.

And so I have been on a quest to find every English-language film shot in and/or located in Vienna. My quest has been, most likely, only partially fulfilled, but I have identified over one hundred and forty films and video productions from 1923 (Merry-Go-Round) through 2015 (Woman in Gold). I have found cinematic representations of Freud, Strauss, Franz Josef, Mozart, Beethoven, and Klimt; mad scientists, assassins, spies, refugees,