Die Geträumten (The Dreamed Ones, 2016)

Another odd independent Austrian filmmaker is Ruth Beckermann, who has been working since the 1970s and whose films have largely been documentaries but like the one below, have played with the edges of dramatisation or with historical subjectivity. She made a sort of travelogue in A Fleeting Passage to the Orient (1999), which I’ve already reviewed on my blog, though this 2016 film was the first exposure I’d had to her work.


It’s an odd film this one, and its oddness largely lies in its sort of contrapuntal relationship to the documentary genre. Two actors (Anja Plaschg and Laurence Rupp) read letters sent between poets Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann — two people who shared markedly different experiences of wartime Europe — during their relationship from the late-40s to late-60s. As it opens, in darkness, the faces of the actors are seen reading the texts into microphones and I’d thought it might be a sort of Straub/Huillet type exercise (I suppose there are similarities in that those two French-German filmmakers liked deploying texts in brutally minimalist ways). However, though the essential form doesn’t change, there are all kinds of interruptions to our expectations, not least distancing the words expressed with those exchanged between the actors. It’s hard to really encapsulate, but it’s certainly an interesting experience.

The Dreamed Ones film posterCREDITS
Director Ruth Beckermann; Writers Beckermann and Ina Hartwig (based on letters by Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan); Cinematographer Johannes Hammel; Starring Anja Plaschg, Laurence Rupp; Length 89 minutes.
Seen at Curzon Bloomsbury (Bertha DocHouse), London, Thursday 8 December 2016.

Ein flüchtiger Zug nach dem Orient (A Fleeting Passage to the Orient, 1999)

Following on from my post about Ulrike Ottinger’s Chamisso’s Shadow earlier today, another filmmaker crafting a similar meeting between history and travel is Ruth Beckermann, whose work I discuss today takes the form of a travelogue but again uses historical texts and incidents to structure it, finding a little bit of the past in present actions perhaps, and revealing something of the world as it’s not perhaps frequently seen by the West.


An essay film with shades of Chantal Akerman I thought, in the way it elegantly constructs its telling of the story of the peripatetic later life travels of Empress Elisabeth of Austria in the 19th century with its own travelogue visions of Egypt. There are lateral tracking shots of markets and bridges across the Nile, among many other sights and sounds of the country, pulled together by a studied narration (available in both German and English). It seems like something that must be very deeply considered, and I confess that I watched it in probably less than the careful scrutiny it deserves, but I very much warmed to the sense of feeling it imparts (presumably somewhat like the Empress would herself have encountered) of peering somehow through the exoticised Othering of Egypt and its people that exists in the West, of getting a glimpse of life in this bustling world city, albeit with a certain distance.

A Fleeting Passage to the Orient film posterCREDITS
Director/Writer Ruth Beckermann; Cinematographers Nurith Aviv נורית אביב and Sophie Cadet; Length 82 minutes.
Seen at home (DVD), London, Thursday 30 January 2020.