This is Michael Haneke's first feature film, made for Österreichischer Rundfunk and Südwestfunk and broadcast in 1976. Like many of his later films for television and for the screen, it is an adaptation of a literary work; but viewers will probably notice moments in it that strangely anticipate later films -- from The Seventh Continent and 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, to Code Inconnu and Caché. This is a dvd rip from an ORF Archive VHS (hence the hard timecode). No English subtitles; (inconsistent) German subtitles for the occasional French- or English-language passage.
The film, which is 97 minutes long, is based on a novella by the Austrian author Ingeborg Bachmann, published in 1972, a year before her death following a fire in her Rome apartment.
In the story, which can be read as loosely autobiographical, Elisabeth Matrei, a successful photojournalist in her mid-40s, has returned to her hometown of Klagenfurt to visit her father and take a break from her hectic life. Her visit is punctuated by several attempts to find her way to the nearby Wörthersee, but each time she starts off walking, her arrival at the lake is hindered. Her visit is likewise interwoven with recollections of her busy, successful, cosmopolitan life, her trajectory out of the rural world of her childhood, the changed political geography of that world, and her relationships with various men, who have been catalysts and obstacles along her path toward self-realization. Foremost amongst these fellows is Franz Joseph von Trotta, an intellectual aristocrat nostalgic for the Hapsburg Empire, whose character resonates with the heroes of Joseph Roths Radetzkymarsch and who bears traces of Bachmann's relationship with Paul Celan. Her relationship with him had been difficult, traumatic even, no more so than when she learned, years after their separation, of his suicide. Elisabeth returns to Paris and evidently has established enough equilibrium and self-confidence to to distance herself from her latest paramour, a young filmmaker. But suspended between two mysterious messages, it is difficult to say how far she will go.