It must have been ten years ago, at a cinema screening of Film Academy students’ works, that I sat next to a young man who spent the presentation wolfing down his popcorn in a way that was as self-confident as it was loud.

It was during a period in which above all women directors were driving forward the international success of Austrian film. Their works were shown at renowned festivals, winning every possible prize … and the media was all abuzz about the film industry’s Fräuleinwunder – its “female miracle”.

There was no talk of any male miracles; evidently, male miracles were viewed as the norm. The evening screening we were at, which presented a cross-section of works created over the preceding four years, included an equal number of films directed by female and male students. But even so, the guy next to me couldn’t stop his half-whispered philosophising about how the evening’s second film was yet another typical “female film”. Since fate had sat us down next to each other, and being too polite to turn away, I must’ve responded with some kind of encouraging gesture – whereupon the presentation began.

The love scene flickering across the screen: “Typically female! No male director would ever film it like that. The long close-up of the guy’s face with that distraught expression … all it does is humiliate him.” Then a driving sequence where the two main characters said not a word to each other: “The great silence,” came my neighbour’s mumbled complaint in my ear. He’d begun munching his popcorn again. Of course, of course, only a woman would always define couples in terms of their conversations. Emotional kitsch!

On to the disco scene. My neighbour laughed out loud: “The eternal girl’s dream of the disco queen,” he squeaked scornfully. And finally, the closing credits: the actors’ names appeared first, followed by that of the director. The guy next to me sank into his seat. “Jörg,” I remarked to him, “is a rather unusual name for a woman, isn’t it?” At that, he stood up and left without a word. He’d left behind his bag of popcorn – which, though a bit strong-smelling, proved infinitely more pleasant company for the remainder of the evening.

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