Feature Films


Among the most important of the Film Archive Austria’s holdings is its extensive collection of feature films. The focus is on Austrian productions, from the pioneering films dating to the first years of the twentieth century to the present day. The survival rate of Austrian feature films has improved considerably in recent years. For silent and early sound movies, the number of available titles has doubled since the turn of the millenium.

Silent Era (1906-1930)

The FAA’s collections comprise 200 out of a total of approximately 1,000 Austrian feature films made prior to 1930. A survival rate of 20% ‒ a high figure by international comparison ‒ constitutes a representative sample of silent-era filmmaking, especially given the fact that for decades most of the films now in our collection had been believed to be permanently lost. The earliest existing Austrian feature films date from 1906 and were made by Saturn, a Vienna-based production company that specialized in erotic subjects. The last silent films produced in Austria testify to the visual mastery the new art of filmmaking had reached by 1930.


Early Sound Era (1930‒1938)

Thanks to large-scale repatriations of materials from international archives, the FAA now holds more than 90% of all Austrian feature films made during the early sound era. Some of the most interesting work from those years was produced by Jewish filmmakers (many of them Austrian-born) whose careers in German cinema had come to an abrupt end with Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. Unable to find work in Germany any longer, they left for Vienna, Budapest or Prague, where newly formed production companies operating independently of the German market created a fascinating body of German-language movies. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the FAA succeeded in tracking down and incorporating into its holdings almost all of these films, which had long been given up for lost.


The Years of NS-Rule (1938‒1945)

Almost all feature films from this period, when film production in Vienna was tightly controlled by the NS-regime’s propaganda machine, have survived. Presumably with a view to the Thousand-Year Reich’s supposed longevity, all films were painstakingly archived, and even the negatives and the historical master positives have often survived in their entirety. The production company Wien-Film was at the center of the Nazis’ film activities. The company, successor to the Tobis-Sascha-Film production company, was in charge of virtually all films produced on Austrian territory under Nazi rule. Besides feature films, the company also produced numerous cultural films. Our near-complete documentation of NS film propaganda made in Austria can be viewed and studied at the FAA’s Study Center.


Second Republic (1945‒today)

At about 85%, the survival rate for Austrian feature films made since the end of World War Two is already impressive, and expectations are that it will only further increase in the coming years as a result of targeted searches. The omissions in the record are to a large extent accounted for by films made under particularly difficult circumstances in the immediate post-war period as well as by independent productions made prior to the establishment of the ÖFI [Austrian Film Institute] as the central agency in charge of public film funding. It was not until 1981 that a bill was finally passed requiring all productions funded by the ÖFI to deposit copies with the Film Archive Austria. The FAA subsequently launched the initiative Depot Legal, lobbying successfully for an extension of the regulation to apply to all film productions funded by the federal states as well.