Film/Public Viewing

Austrian Film maker: Willi Hengstler

Aragonit_Eisenblüte, Erzberg

Film & ArtistTalk

Tief Oben / Deep Above, Austria 1994, directed by Willi Hengstler, written by Willi Hengstler, music by Walter Werzowa, songs by Hans Platzgumer, H.P.Zinker

produced by
Lukas Stepanik for Extrafilm
directed by Willi Hengstler
starring Barbara Steele, Peter Simonischek, Katharina Konstantin, H.P.Zinker (= Hans Platzgumer, Uwe Batruel, David Wasik), Birgit Linauer, Gerhard Balluch, Jürgen Goslar
written by Willi Hengstler, music by Walter Werzowa, songs by Hans Platzgumer, H.P.Zinker

review by
Mike Haberfelner
In the 16th century, Gasteiger (Peter Simonischek), the sort-of squire of Eisenerz, a village in the Styrian Alps, sends his miners deep into the mines of the Erzberg to bring him the perfect iron flower, an expedition that costs many a miner’s life. But since they have found his iron flower, Gasteiger argues the loss of life was totally worth it – which is met with outrage by the locals, who soon form your usual angry mob with torches and pitchforks to have their revenge. Gasteiger however is unfazed by that because he has big plans – make the iron flower the centerpiece of an especially crafted case that will allow him to escape into another world and live forever …
The 20th century: Student Barbara (Katharina Konstantin) returns to Eisenerz to do some research on Gasteiger’s iron flower case, but at first she is met with dismay everywhere she goes, with most even denying the existence of the case. Howevver, she suspects Mrs Wagner (Barbara Steele), owner of the local museum and mother of her boyfriend Hans (Hans Platzgumer), to know the secret of the case. Mrs Wagner however won’t talk …
Hans meanwhile tries to make it big as a musician, even though his band (Platzgumer’s real-life band H.P.Zinker) is hopelessly bad, as he has to discover at his first gig outside of Eisenerz. Then though, he somehow gets in touch with Gasteiger from inside the iron flower case, who promises to make him and his band great musicians, but in turn he has to hand him over the first one who crosses his path. Gasteiger keeps his part of the deal, and all of a sudden Hans’ band sounds great as can be, but the first one who has crossed Hans’ path was Barbara, and Hans is not willing to give her up – but Gasteiger isn’t open for re-negotiations. Thing is, for his redemption, Gasteiger needs to deflower a virgin, and since Hans never had sex with Barbara …
Hans tries everything to prevent Gasteiger from getting his hands on Barbara, but Gasteiger cuts off all of Hans’s support, like his bandmates and even Hans’s mother, who was incidently Gasteiger’s mistress all over the years. Ultimately though, Hans finds Gasteiger’s iron flower case and smashes it … but with Gasteiger outside the case, that doesn’t do much good, and ultimately, Gasteiger revives the dead to … well, actually, the dead don’t do anything, they just walk around zombie-like. It’s just the more dead he revives, the more crowded it gets for the living …
Gasteiger finally manages to seduce Barbara, but having sex, he notices she’s a virgin no more (just because she didn’t have sex with Hans doesn’t mean she didn’t have sex), so he kills her, and now he’s more and more keen to have his revenge on the living. Enter professor Seligmann (Gerhard Balluch), Barbara’s tutor at university, who knows how to defeat Gasteiger: He has to be lured back into his iron flower case – bad thing though is that Hans has already smashed it. Still, Seligmann is somehow able to fix it, while it’s Hans’s job to fetch a new, perfect iron flower from inside the Erzberg …
In the finale, Hans has to perform with his zombiefied bandmates while Seligmann can convince Gasteiger to return into the iron flower case since the real world isn’t everything it promised to be – and ultimately, the dead return to where they came from while Barbara, Hans’s mum and his bandmates return to life.
And Seligmann?
He follows Gasteiger into his iron flower case to learn the secrets of eternal life – but Hans and company think it’s best to smash the case …

What a wonderfully weird film!
A self-consciously self-ironic blend of gothic horror and folklore, Eurohorror and musical, romantic fantasy and zombie motives – and somehow, director Willi Hengstler manages to keep all these aspects in balance to deliver a suspenseful film without ever taking himself too seriously, with often even addressing the slight (but intentional) silliness of his plot. And believe me, Hengstler’s dancing zombies come across much better and funnier than those in Michael Jackson’s/John Landis’ Thriller-video.
In all, an immensely enjoyable film, but one that never really got much of a proper release and that’s for some reason incredibly hard-to-find nowadays, even despite the participation of horror queen Barbara Steele.


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