Outbreak of the war
End of the war

Imperial and Royal myth in film

In the last years of the nineteenth century images of Austria-Hungary also began to ‘move’. The films from the late Danube Monarchy glorified the past. The myth and image of the Monarchy was created at the time and communicated in films. The visual clichés in the feature films of the inter-war and post-war years are notable for their ‘imperially beautified’ pictures and impressions of the ‘quiet and pleasant’ life in the Monarchy.

The film documents from the imperial era are dominated by the ‘magic of the uniform’, parades and processions, aristocratic celebrations and especially those of the ruling house and show nothing of poverty and exclusion. The films portray the pleasant side of Sunday and holiday leisure, with the ‘masses’ enjoying all the fun of the fair. One spectacle that attracted large numbers to the Prater in 1913 was the Adriatic exhibition – the last major show of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy before the First World War. Famous buildings on the Adriatic coast were reconstructed along a specially built canal, where the steamship Wien lay at anchor with a restaurant on board. Buildings included a campanile, the Church of St George in Lovran, the city gate of Zadar and the Rector’s Palace in Ragusa (now Dubrovnik). Visits by the king and emperor were welcomed at major projects, as can be seen in the film Emperor Franz Joseph I Opens the Adriatic Exhibition in Vienna (A 1913). Popular pictures like this were enjoyed equally by the ruling house and its subjects.

An annual highpoint was the birthday of Franz Joseph I, celebrated on 18 August in a general tribute to the emperor. Cinematography captured moments like this, as can be seen in the film Tribute to the Emperor in the Imperial and Royal Prater in Vienna (A 1911). It showed smartly dressed boys and girls, policemen and sailors, ladies and gentlemen from respectable society, but also urban and rural proletariat milling around the Prater in their Sunday best. There is more to see than usual in this film. No one wanted to miss the annual parade celebrating the assumption of office of Emperor Franz Joseph I. In the background can be seen the Giant Ferris Wheel and the speeding carriages of the elevated Scenic Railway. Everything appears to be in motion, with clusters of people gathering only in a few places, listening to the theatrically gesticulating barkers as they try to persuade customers to visit their attractions. Although these earlier pictures of the Tribute to the Emperor in the Imperial and Royal Prater in Vienna are silent, the energetic sweep of the camera makes it easy to imagine the hubbub of voices, the rattling and squeaking of the mechanical rides, and the seductive calls of the fairground barkers. This silent film somehow manages in this way to make plenty of noise.

Translation: Nick Somers


Moritz, Verena: Vergangenheitsbewältigung, in: Moritz, Verena/Moser, Karin/Leidinger, Hannes: Kampfzone Kino. Film in Österreich 1918-1938, Wien 2008, 141-172

Storch, Ursula: Eine Reise um die Welt – im Wiener Prater, in: Dewald, Christian/Schwarz, Werner Michael: Prater Kino Welt. Der Wiener Prater und die Geschichte des Kinos, Wien 2005, 101-125

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    On the eve of war

    The last decade of the nineteenth century and the first of the twentieth were a time of modernisation, mechanisation and speed. In 1910, Vienna, capital of the Habsburg empire, had 2.1 million inhabitants and had grown to become an international metropolis. New technologies changed working life and leisure. Railways increased mobility, as did the bicycle, motor vehicle and aeroplane. How did this development manifest itself and what other trends emerged in the last years before the outbreak of the First World War?

  • Aspect

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Persons, Objects & Events

  • Object


    All Quiet on the Western Front was released in 1930. It was the film of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel of the same name about the experiences of a soldier during the First World War. Remarque’s book and the film adaptation are classic anti-war statements. Alongside the patriotic, glorified heroic epics and “authentic” documentation of service for the fatherland, this was just one way in which the First World War was portrayed in literature and films – a medium that had come into being only twenty years before the outbreak of war.

  • Person

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  • Development

    The Habsburg myth – the dynasty before and after 1918

    The Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty formed the ideological basis for the Habsburg Monarchy, since the existence of the multi-ethnic state was primarily a product of the dynastic history of this ruling house.

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