LOTTE EISNER – UN LIEU, NULLE PART
Scen.: Timon Koulmasis. F.: Rüdiger Kortz. M.: Aurique Delannoy. Mus.: Ernst August Klötzke. Int.: Werner Herzog, Volker Schlöndorff, Wim Wenders, Martje Herzog, Laurent Manonni, Bernard Eisenschitz. Prod.: Ilona Grundmann, Christophe Gougeon per Ilona Grundmann Filmproduktion, Acqua alta, ZDF/Arte, HessenFilm, ORF Weltvertrieb, Ciné +, CNC, Procirep-Angoa, Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah. DCP. Col.
Figeac, winter 1941. A village in occupied France. Under the assumed name of Louise Escoffier, a Jewish German refugee, Lotte Eisner, is in an abandoned château, storing away valuable pieces of German, Russian and American early cinematic art, which Henri Langlois, the founder of Cinémathèque Française, has hidden from the Nazis. The snow falls relentlessly.
Starting with this initial image in the isolated château, we follow, through a fragmented and asynchronous story, the different stages of Eisner’s life. Her Jewish middle-class childhood in Berlin; her work as an influential film critic during the roaring twenties; her persecution by the Nazis and her emigration to France (while part of her family remained and were killed in Terezin); her friendship with Henri Langlois, with whom she built a museum of cinema, collecting films and artefacts from around the world. The Cinémathèque française would prove to be her only home until the end of her life. Truffaut, Godard… the New Wave; and finally, her discovery of New German Cinema, which she supported and legitimised as the sole moral authority to be recognised after the war. She came to be seen as its conscience and inspiration.
The narration illuminates the many facets of its subject, a courageous cinephile, buffeted between two identities, who fought against barbarity by devoting her life to cinema and writing “out of a sense of nostalgia” about her devasted homeland. A poetic and inventive montage of images gleaned during a long journey to the key places of her life, rare archive footage of her, numerous extracts of expressionist silent films and, as if seen in a mirror, scenes from New German Cinema, whose roots she traced to German Romanticism. The film reflects the intersections between lived experience, representation, cinema and history throughout the last century.