Schlagerstar: The Film, or the Architects of Dream Worlds
by Andy Zahradnik
Looking back through the history of the German Schlager would be going too far, because this musical genre, like none other, has undergone a variety of developments over almost a century because of its huge potential target group. But one thing remains certain in the final analysis: Regardless of the social and political humus the lyrics (most important of all) have grown from, the scene’s protagonists, despite their extensive backgrounds in the music industry, have always been architects of dream worlds. Schlager songs are entertainment. In three minutes they tell stories that romance novels need 200 pages for. They’re colorful backdrops for scenes of love, affection and distress. Behind that is a circus, a business, the life of a folk musician. With all the ups and downs.
Marc Pircher is one of the scene’s most active protagonists, and he has his finger in every pie. Making music that combines pop-folk entertainment and Schlager, this musician from Tyrol’s Zillertal is familiar not only from the genre’s charts, broadcasts and magazines, but also as a TV host (Grand Prix der Volksmusik, Christmas at Gut Aiderbichl, etc.). Marc Pircher is the “Schlager star” that the camera followed for the documentary of the same name for over a year. It was there, at Pircher’s side, always recording, observing, without judging in any way.
The resulting footage was then edited, and the end product doesn’t make any judgments either, or try to manipulate the spectator in any way. Anyone familiar with the scene will say, “It is what it is.” The film portrays a business. Nothing more or less. Of course, what happens behind the scenes is different than what’s seen in public. Fees, CD sales, TV appearances and charts are the parameters that must be as strong as possible. The market begins at the front door. From Lake Neusiedl to Kiel, this is Schlager country. The Schlager represents the genre in which Austrian musicians export their products with the most commercial success. And the battle for market shares is as bitter as the job is difficult.
The film Schlagerstar shows its viewers in an almost disarming way what it means for a star to constantly be in charge while ensuring that the carousel never stops spinning. Ringing doorbells, riding in cars day and night, on stage, promotion, TV shows, making sure he gets radio play, dealing with the fans, etc. Pircher, the “Schlager star,” will provide the genre’s critics with ammunition, as the film portrays the business and doesn’t try to make the backdrop something it’s not. The fans won’t be distressed or disappointed when leaving the theater, as even the most gullible Schlager lover is aware that everything happening on stage, and on the TV screen, is part of a carefully planned and orchestrated show. The fans know that their ticket will admit them to a temporary dream world.
Apart from the craftsmanship and dramatic quality that makes the film an outstanding documentary, a really surprising aspect is that Marc Pircher had the courage to do it. Not ducking away, not hiding in the TV show’s scenery or the paper-mache trees, but standing by what’s shown. Pircher, the tireless self-promoter, will have to face the critics who always know everything, and experience has shown that there are plenty. He’ll come up with arguments and manage, because honestly, does anyone believe that things are different in the rock circus?
There is no business, like show business…