France, Here We Are!
Austria 1999, 80 min.
The context for watching an Austrian film on football fans changed completely after Jörg Haider’s tragic success in the country’s national elections. Films on football fans often deal with the mass hooliganism that is so clearly linked to Europe’s current rightwing movements.
But there is nothing in Michael Glawogger’s film that explains what led to Jörg Haider’s succes. It was shot in 1998 when the World Cup was held in France. One reason is of course that Austrian fans did not copy the British, French and German hooliganism that we all saw on television.
Another reason is that Glawogger is not at all interested in the socio-political aspect of football events like the World Cup. As in his previous film, “Megacities”, he chooses to portray eccentric characters and assemble the pieces like a collage: A blind, young man who attends the matches and has his friends tell him what happens on the field. He plays music and studies theology. A journalist, who makes a kind of video diary with a lot of pseudo-philosophical comments as he travels through France to the playing fields of the three matches. A mother and her grown-up son are the real fans; they watch more than 100 matches a year and fly to France and back three times to support their team. The retired drunkard at the café, who keeps on saying the truth: Our team is not good enough for the World Cup tournament. The old man, who goes to the graveyard and tells his dead father how the match went. And more. From match to match – the story is divided into three acts as in a classic Greek tragedy – we meet these people in situations surrounding the matches, spliced with clips of the Austrians playing in their matches.
I think Glawogger could have made this film into something more than just another look at nice, somewhat weird football addicts. But he never really commits himself, which might stem from the involvement of the journalist as the on-going commentator who becomes an annoying element of the story, when he could have delved into some socio-psychological issues. Like – why are the Austrians always overjoyed when they do not lose their games! For me, one of the qualities of “Megacities” was that the director stayed on the surface as a foreigner in world cities. In that film he provided a thrilling, engaging story that dared to challenge the politically correct way of looking at the world (of poverty). This new work from the director’s homeland unfolds very little engagement and real curiosity.