Spiegel van Holland
Netherlands, 1950, 9 min, DCP, B&W, no dialogue
Fischfang in der Rhön (an der Sinn)
Germany, 1932, 11 min, DCP, B&W, silent
Douro, faina fluvial
Manoel de Oliveira
Portugal, 1931, 18 min, 35mm, B&W, silent
Die Donau Rauf
Peter and Zsóka Nestler
Germany, 1969, 28 min, DCP, colour, German
L’Eau de la Seine
France, 1983, 11 min, DCP, colour, silent
How fortunate for filmmakers, true friends of light, that rivers contain water, for the combination of water and light means image play can be intensified and landscapes turned around, as Bert Haanstra does in the canals of Holland. A sailboat converted into a dying candle flame; the combination of what the water contains and what it reflects, water lilies and clouds together on the same body of water.
And it is also possible, as Ella Bergman- Michel did (an artist who was able to work in Germany until 1933 but not afterwards) to play with depth and not with the surface, so that boulders, tadpoles and trout appear, jumping at dusk and dying beautifully when they have taken the bait, and which for centuries were the fish of those who lived far from the sea. The river, one of the largest in Europe, looks gossamer-fine and new-born in the film; only rivers are continually being born and dying at the same time.
We go from a Sunday fisherman with his rod and multi-pocketed waistcoat, to the fishing that begins on board boats and ends in the fish markets, from leisure to work, with half the city involved. This is Oporto, and at that time there was a strong intersection between old and new or slow and fast; the motorist who crashes into the ox cart because he is gawking at an aeroplane! The film belongs to the new, rushing along at full speed. Manoel de Oliveira, sovietised and always in a good mood, after looking for straight, curved, diagonal, parallel lines in the Douro stakes everything on the editing.
Yet more work and, as if that weren’t enough, history (the official history you study at school) combined with a secret, past history: ours, the one that matters to Peter and Zsóka Nestler. It seems as if this journey upstream along the Danube has been devised to tell the story of the peasant revolts of the 17th century. Some of the motifs of L’Hirondelle et la Mésange are repeated, but without the rapture of fiction and after Mauthausen. And other, unrepeatable ones appear such as the encounter in Budapest with a migrant from Biafra, a country that would lose its independence the following year.
And finally, Teo Hernández, a Mexican in Paris. The Seine remains still under its famous bridges. It is Teo who creates the movement, like one of Inspector Gadget’s mechanical arms, with his super-8 camera filling the spectators heads with metaphors: thanks to the zoom, the sun reflected in the water looks like a thunderstorm, fireworks or even, if you’ve just seen the previous film, the sparks that fly when two swords clash.