Online catalogue / Peter Schreiner :

AT / 2009
128 min.

Antonio Cotroneo, a man in his fifties; in his Calabrian hometown everybody calls him Totó. For many decades he has been living in his chosen exile. Having subsequently married an Austrian woman and fathered four sons, the graduate political scientist earns his money as an usher at Vienna Konzerthaus. For Peter Schreiner´s filmic close-up of the person Totó, however, these biographic data are hardly of any interest. Totó, the film, is rather a catchment basin for the principal characterís thoughts and moods.

Schreiner accompanies Totó as cameraman, sound recordist and director on train journeys back to his old hometown. The camera records the details of his face, bushy brows, blinking eyes, sulky protruding lower lip, whilst Totó expresses his own undetermined yearning first in very individual German and then in Italian. The sound is recorded just as close as the image: sometimes it would only be his breath filling the sound track, a sigh, a groan, as if carrying a heavy load. The instrument of language proves unsatisfactory for Totó´s endeavour to grasp the essence of this load.

Totó´s world is a world of undertones. Neither serenity nor grief determines his everyday life, but the consistent melancholy of an outsider, who perceives other peopleís active lives with sharpened senses but without sharing. Schreiner films Totó working at the Konzerthaus. At a slight angle he leans between marble and mirrors at the steps. As for a boy who grew too fast, the uniform trousers have folds above the ankles. Through the chatting audience flowing down the stairs, the camera gazes at the man holding the programmes: a man alone, lost in his thoughts, detached from the movement of the mass. A sujet of atmospheric alienation similarly recorded by Edouard Manet in his last great painting "Bar at the Folies-Bergère"; the serious looking girl behind the bar of the pleasure temple. Here and there a person being with him/herself in a world of mirrors.

Just like Manet, in his portrait of the present outsider, Schreiner works with the undertones of light. As for all of his work since 1982, he chooses black/white film.

The edited film contrasts the nicely polished and marble clad halls of the Vienna Konzerthaus with the rough rocks of Totó´s hometown of Tropea, a collection of houses from the Middle Ages, holding on to a cliff high above the Tyrrhenian Sea. Totó says that this was his home, here he had felt protected. From beneath by the sea. From above by the sky.

Today the reactions of the people he meets on his walks testify, however, that he himself has become a stranger. He, who had once said of tourists visiting this picturesque place that they would never understand it has, with the passing of years, become a tourist himself, in the settings of his own memories. Thus Totó strolls through alleys, visits the dark limestone caves, chats with Tropea´s last fisherman and Melo, his now toothless friend from childhood. And yet he remains without a home in his attempt to repatriate his soul in this setting of his childhood that has now become too small.
(Maya McKechneay)

As a young rebel Totó has turned his back on his place of birth. Ever since he has found himself between different worlds with his language, his feelings and his dreams. He was born in Tropea in Calabria and has been married to a woman from Vienna for thirty years. Today he lives in Vienna as an immigrant, after decades restlessly seeking a place to live with his wife and his four sons. At the age of fifty, his yearning for his hometown and the feeling of loss grow so strong that Totó’s thoughts circle ever increasingly around his childhood and youth in southern Italy. Thus, during his duty as an usher at the Viennese Konzerthaus, he creates the first poems in the language of his childhood, the dialect of Tropea. Writing not only evokes memories of the lost “simple life” but also feelings and encounters he thought had long been forgotten. Totó, playing with the thought of going back in search of himself, both in Vienna and on the "Borgo", the road of his childhood, where stone steps lead down to the sea, to great freedom…. (production note)

A film by:
- Peter Schreiner

- Documentary

original language:
- german/italian

Available Prints:
- 35 mm

price: 300 EUR


rental conditions

more on Austrian Independent Film & Video Database:
- Credits
- Festival placements
- Texte und Bilder
- Biographie: Peter Schreiner