Inheritors deal with class warfare

By The Columbia Chronicle

“It’s a crazed animal that must be destroyed.” This observation sets the premise for a breezy study on class warfare that is “The Inheritors.” A loathed character, farmer Danninger, makes this hypocritical statement about crazed animals. He is the ringleader of the rich in this 1930s village in rural Austria. His statement reeks of irony because it is he and his compatriots who are the “crazed animals,” out to ruin their new competition, the poor 1/7 farmers.

Rich vs. poor is standard in a narrative of class struggle. “The Inheritors” involves the rich vs. the newly rich. The peasants, considered the lowest form of human beings, inherit the farm they work on when the despicable farmer Hillinger is brutally murdered. He actually leaves his farm in hopes that they will beat each other to death. The peasants can live with this proposition and, after ousting the foreman, the seven of them take over the farm, its finances, and the agitation from the other farmers who are enraged that the farm was not bequeathed to them. The farmers want to see these peasants go down and they intend to make it happen.

The seven inheriting farmers include four women, two men, and a boy. Sophi Rois plays Emilie, a volatile feminist in a culture where the word feminist doesn’t exist. She’s the hardest working of the farmers, taking a commanding position in household issues. At a church service Emilie usurps class relations by marching up to the front row reserved for the rich. She bellows out the hymn terribly off key as a statement of insubordination. It’s known throughout the village that she sleeps around. She doesn’t do this for money or for love, but just for the pure pleasure of it. I can dig a woman in the 1930s who is in control of and in tune with her own sexual needs and desires. It’s quite remarkable. However the farmers don’t appreciate it, especially since they’re not getting any, so they refer to her as “the whore.” Lucas is a not-so-bright young man whose talent is that he can say “Hello” in English. He must have some hidden talents as well because although he is quite unattractive, he fools around with all the peasant girls, favoring Emilie. It seems that the actor who plays Lukas, Simon Schwartz, got the part because of his appearance. He just looks like a plain old dumb farm boy. Louis Rudolph, on the other hand, is quite a babe. He plays Severin, the narrator of the story and the brains of the makeshift family. He and Emilie would make a better match than Emilie and Lukas because Severin is intelligent, hard working, and strong like Emilie. Lukas is a simpleton with strange ideas and free time on his mind. Being the only two men on the farm made Lukas and Severin close friends and confidants. In one of the most amusing scenes, the two buddies celebrate ownership of the farm when they wrestle around in their very own manure and urinate on their very own house.

The other 1/7 farmer is Old Nane, a lifelong peasant who wants for nothing and is the revealer of the past. Her function is to tell stories of her youth as a peasant that will link the younger peasants to the farmers in the village. Lisbeth and Liesle are two insignificant characters. When they leave the farm to go work in factories, you barely notice. There is also a boy who owns 1/7 of the farm, but he has no name. He is even more meaningless than Lisbeth and Liesle because he is hardly seen and says a total of five words: “I want some more soup.” Why bother with this kid? Until he said that, and it was pointed out by Severin that he was a 1/7 farmer, I thought he was Emilie’s bastard son they kept mentioning.

This film’s characters do not create the feelings they’re intended to. You’re supposed to feel compassion and sympathy for these struggling poor peasants who are just trying to make their way in the world of the rich. But you just don’t. You just hope to get out of the movie in time to catch the next train. Did I mention there’s anything wrong with subtitles, but I had to go see my chiropractor the next day because my neck was strained from leaning around the guy’s big head in front of me. Save your money and go see “Waterboy” instead!

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