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Chess Story

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“Chess is about grinding down your opponent’s ego,” claims the SS captain interrogating Josef Bartok (Oliver Masucci) the night Vienna is taken over by the Nazis. Bartok, a Jew and a notary public who holds the codes to a treasure trove of private bank accounts in his head is not a chess player, but he’s arrogant, or competitive, or principled enough not to give the German what he wants, and is condemned to indefinite solitary confinement until he should change his mind. Days give way to… months? Bartok loses track and gradually his sanity. Then fate throws him a lifeline, a single book…. a book of chess games…

Freely adapted from Stefan Zweig’s novella, and dominated by Oliver Musucci’s multifaceted performance, Philipp Stölzl’s gripping movie is a compelling psychological study of torture, defiance and the kind of mind games no one can hope to control.

Chess Story masterfully confounds expectations as a tautly calibrated, intricately constructed Chinese puzzle of a period drama set during Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria. Masucci, who appears in every scene, potently conveys a multitude of unspoken emotions with his remarkably expressive face…. He’s never less than riveting….

Michael Rechtshaffen, Los Angeles Times

A diabolically knotted psychological thriller… Thanks to an outstanding performance by Mr. Masucci, who recalls Mads Mikkelsen’s haunted intensity; an elegant turn by Mr. Schuch as his genteel torturer; and charged direction by Mr. Stölzl, who parsimoniously hands out each clue, the film remains breathless throughout.

Kyle Smith, The Wall Street Journal

Stölzl craftily melds the genres of period drama and psychological thriller, not for the purposes of reheated nostalgia, but to shed a cold light on the recursions of historical trauma.

William Repass, Slant Magazine


Philipp Stölzl


Oliver Masucci, Rolf Lassgard, Albrecht Schuch, Birgit Minichmayr

Country of Origin





In German with English subtitles

112 min

Book Tickets

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Executive Producer

Barbara Osberg, Bonnie Hughson


Leslie D. Bland, Harold C. Joe


Leslie D. Bland, Harold C. Joe


C. Gavin Andrews


C. Gavin Andrews

Production Design

Barbara Osberg

Original Music

Alexander Brendan Ferguson