In this coming-of-age story, set mostly in Vienna just as the Nazis are rising, 17-year-old Franz (Simon Morzé) arrives from the countryside to work at a tobacco shop owned by his mother’s old flame Otto Trsnjek (Johannes Krisch). He’s a kind man and takes to Franz immediately, teaching him the ropes of the place. And who should walk through the doors but one of his regular customers, Sigmund Freud (Bruno Ganz, Wings of Desire, Downfall) who also takes to Franz and gives him advice on finding love.
So out Franz goes and the first girl that catches his eye becomes his obsession. Anezka (Emma Drogunova) is a pretty girl from Bohemia who strings him along, alternately climbing into his bed and breaking his heart. So Franz consults again and again with his friend Sigmund to try and make sense of it all. Meanwhile the Germans are setting up camp in town, and people he cares about are dying, and Freud’s family is talking about getting the hell out of dodge. But the whole Nazi thing is really just peripheral to Franz’s quest for love.
Director Nikolaus Leytner’s extensive credits are mostly for TV movies and that’s just what this film feels like. A well done TV movie. It never really rises above a surface story. The actors are all good and the sets nice, but the story, for one that is set within the horrors of the Nazi occupation of Vienna, is really fairly straight forward. You care about the characters, but there isn’t any urgency. It’s one of those pleasant movies to watch when you don’t want to be too invested. (Sadly it is also Bruno Ganz’s final film.)
It’s streaming now in Virtual Cinemas.
[Mainstream Chick’s take: The Tobacconist is a mix of interesting moments and weird ones. Dreams and imagination kept interrupting the reality in a way that I found more distracting than artistic. At times, I felt like I was watching an older version of JoJo Rabbit (a far better film), where instead of a crazy imaginary Hitler, the teen is chatting with a perfectly sane yet imaginary Freud. It’s not worth over-analyzing. The film is just barely okay. -hb]