Chess Story

One of the rare cases in which the film has not only managed to leave the original behind, but to surpass it. Visually intoxicating.


Chess Story

Vienna, 1938: Austria is occupied by the Nazis. Dr. Josef Bartok (Oliver Masucci) is preparing to flee to America with his wife Anna when he is arrested by the Gestapo. As a former notary to the deposed Austrian aristocracy, he is told to help the local Gestapo leader gain access to their private bank accounts in order to fund the Nazi regime. Refusing to cooperate, Bartok is locked in solitary confinement. Just as his mind is beginning to crack, Bartok happens upon a book of famous chess games. To withstand the torture of isolation, Bartok disappears into the world of chess, maintaining his sanity only by memorizing every move. As the action flashes forward to a transatlantic crossing on which he is a passenger, it seems as though Bartok has finally found freedom. But recounting his story to his fellow travelers, it's clear that his encounters with both the Gestapo and with the royal game itself have not stopped haunting him. Adapted with opulent attention to period detail by filmmaker and opera director Philipp Stölzl, CHESS STORY brings Stefan Zweig's stirring final novella to life.

"Stölzl craftily melds the genres of period drama and psychological thriller, not for the purposes of reheated nostalgia, but to shed a cold light on the recursions of historical trauma." ~ William Repass, Slant Magazine
Not Rated
Drama, Thriller
Philipp Stölzl
Eldar Grigorian, Stefan Zweig
Oliver Masucci, Rolf Lassgård, Albrecht Schuch, Birgit Minichmayr
William Repass, Slant Magazine

Stölzl takes advantage of the elasticity of cinematic time to affect the subjective “disappearance of time and space” that Böhm pridefully attributes to his method of torture. Jump cuts elide and superimpositions double the rhythms of passing time as Josef repeats from memory the invocation to the ...

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