Night of a 1000 Hours – Die Nacht der 1000 Stunden (2016)
Directed by: Virgil Widrich | 92 minutes | thriller, comedy | Actors: Laurence Rupp, Amira Casar, Johann Adam Oest, Lukas Miko, Elisabeth Rath, Luc Feit, Josiane Peiffer, Linde Prelog, Barbara Petritsch, Claire Johnston, Udo Samel, Brigitte Urhausen
‘Night of a 1000 Hours’ (‘Die Nacht der 1000 Stunden’) tells the story of the wealthy Viennese Ullich family. The company was founded by Hermann Ullich in 1899 and now his children Georg Ullich (Johann Adam Oest) and his half-sister Erika Bode (Elisabeth Rath) are in their 70s. During a family meeting, Georg wants to hand over the telephony family business to his ambitious son Philip ( Laurence Rupp). During a deliberation in which Philips mother Berte (Linde Prelog) is also present, Erika declares that she wants to transfer her shares – after thirty years of Georg’s insistence – to Philip. She has discovered that her son Jochen (Lukas Miko) has become a fervent neo-Nazi and she does not want him to inherit her shares. Everything seems to be in pitchers, until Erika suddenly drops dead at the table. In the ensuing confusion, Jochen enters, demanding an explanation about his mother’s death and the transfer of shares. While calling the police, Erika suddenly appears alive again. And as the shocked relatives try to pull themselves together and continue the meeting, more long-dead relatives come in.
An in reality impossible starting point suddenly becomes the most normal thing in the world in ‘Night of a 1000 Hours’. Certainly if the narrative becomes further and further removed from reality due to one incident after another. Director Virgil Widrich almost immediately grabs the viewer with a literal fantastic story and the intriguing premise of the returning dead relatives. Those who are willing to get carried away and accept what is presented without too much skepticism will certainly enjoy it. The initial mystery is heightened when it turns out that only the founder Hermann, Philip’s grandfather, is missing from returning relatives. He was killed in a direct hit on his air-raid shelter in the aftermath of the Second World War. But when fresh blood is found, it seems that he has been killed (again). But why? And Hermann’s first wife Renate (Amira Casar) committed suicide under mysterious circumstances around the Anschluss in 1938. Once she’s come back to life, she can’t remember anything about it. However, Philip and she are attracted to each other.
The murder of Hermann and all the intrigues have their hands full with the gathered police. Complication: the police officers, led by a gagged anger (Udo Samel) wear pre-war uniforms full of medals and are armed with sabers. It gets crazier and crazier: soon camps arise within the family, the 19th-century revolutionary fire flares up, old feuds are fought between bourgeoisie and proletariat and between Nazis and Communists in the salons and corridors of the Ullichs’ city palace. As the house falls into disrepair from destruction, barricades and fighting, Philip tries to keep his wits about him – despite his feelings for his great-aunt, who died seventy years earlier – and unravel the family secrets. The missing and murdered Grandpa Hermann seems to be the key.
Strangely enough, ‘Night of a 1000 Hours’ is billed as a horror movie, but it can hardly be called that. There is hardly any blood flow and although the reunion with dead relatives might be a ‘horror’, the film is more of a mystery thriller with comic touches. Because the film clearly has a “tongue-in-cheek” here and there. Everyone participates imperturbably in the quirky prank, and the ancient maid Ida (Claire Johnston) doesn’t flinch to follow the household orders of the dead. The makers create a surreal film, interspersed with the complex history of Austria – without becoming a history lesson – which also works through the equally complex family history of the Ullichs. Widrich also works with background projections and sound effects to reinforce the alienating effect of the film.
The movie won’t be to everyone’s taste, not in terms of thematics and the associations that the romance between Philip and Renate evokes, but ‘Night of a 1000 Hours’ is entertaining and will last from start to finish.