The ‘amour fou’ by Alma Mahler and Oskar Kokoschka | Entertainment | The USA Print

The 'amour fou' by Alma Mahler and Oskar Kokoschka

In May 1911, Alma Mahler had just been widowed by the great composer and conductor Gustav Mahler. She was an extremely cultured Viennese high society woman who liked to surround herself with art and geniuses. She had learned to play the piano as a child and was a composer, but in her marriage to Mahler she had to take too long a place in her shadow as mother, housekeeper and helper. She until she had had enough and she sought refuge in the arms of the architect and founder of the Bauhaus Walter Gropius, one of her many lovers and, ultimately, her second husband.

However, the appearance of the young Oskar Kokoschka in her life, whom she meets when he comes to her house to make a death mask of Gustav for one of his many artistic projects, leads to a torrent of unbridled and toxic love passion.

The artists lived a complicated relationship

The artists lived a complicated relationship

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This reflects it Alma Mahler, the passion, a film that hits theaters today after passing through the BCN Film Fest and the Atlàntida Mallorca Film Fest. Directed by the Austrian Dieter Berner, who in his previous work already delved into the biography of another peculiar artist like Egon Schiele, the film delves into the complex relationship that Alma and Oskar had for four years.

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The film starts in New York shortly before the death of Gustav Mahler, who has just found out about his wife’s infidelity with Gropius. “I am 31 years old. I want to live and he is young. You don’t even look at me anymore, I don’t exist for you. He believed in you, in your music and in your genius. I thought you understood my artistic ambitions. That’s why I loved you. But in this marriage there can only be one composer and it’s you, ”he reproaches her.

I wanted to let the public know what the woman behind the muse that inspired so many artists was really like, in addition to inquiring into her powerful sexuality.


Dieter Berner

The film’s script was co-written by Berner again in collaboration with his partner, the former actress Hilde Berger, with “the intention of letting the public know what the woman behind the muse who inspired so many artists really was like” in addition to “investigating in his powerful sexuality. In her diary, she wrote that if she knew a genius and needed her body, she had to offer it to him for the sake of art. She felt a tremendous need to be desired by men and she was, ”explains the director in conversation with this newspaper.

Undoubtedly, Alma, interpreted with conviction by Emily Cox, boosted the creativity of the artists with whom she surrounded herself and rebelled against that submission to which the patriarchal society of the time chained her. She “She didn’t like being married, but she did it three times. The last one was the novelist Franz Werfel, with whom she was until his death, ”continues the director.

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Co-writer Hilde Berger and director Dieter Berner

Co-writer Hilde Berger and director Dieter Berner

Max Berner

“She was very pretty and provocative. She expressed her opinion on any subject, without caring about her repercussions, ”adds Berger, who recalls that she, together with her mother and her stepfather, lived in a unique environment through which the most famous creators paraded. “Gustav Klimt gave her the first kiss from her at the age of 16. And when the whole world was surrendering to Mahler’s music, she openly told him that she didn’t like him.

Despite everything, they ended up getting married after a quick courtship. “She thought that this man 20 years her senior would help her in her goal of becoming a composer, but in the marriage contract Mahler ordered her to abandon her professional concerns. Alma was already pregnant and those ten years together were very hard for her, that she even thought about suicide”. Once Gustav is dead, the widow throws herself into premiering her ninth symphony and searches for the perfect conductor.

Alma was very pretty and provocative. She would express her opinion on any subject, regardless of the repercussions.


hilde berger

And in those he runs into Kokoschka’s enfant terrible, whose talent he admires for creating risky performances and an expressionist painting that cried out to break through among the greats. Alma asks him to paint it and they end up devouring each other in a spiral of sex, art and letters. Until Oskar’s terrible jealousy ruins the relationship.

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“Alma had never been with a man like this before. He depended on her and her obsession reaches such a point that he has a life-size doll made with the physique of her lover with whom he walked for two years in Dresden. “It was a kind of art therapy for him,” Berner says. After the breakup, the exchange of letters continued, already more spaced. But they never saw each other again. A full-fledged ‘amour fou’.


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Anna Tomas

AUSTRIA - JANUARY 01: Alma Mahler (Mahler-Werfel), nee Schindler.  Photography, 1909. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images) [Alma Mahler-Werfel, geborene Schindler. Photographie, 1909.]