Scheda Film

Film is an incomparable medium for bringing the past to life. Past times serve as an attractive setting for films of all kinds, from fantasy adventures to accu­rate re-enactments. Momentous historical events like wars or the birth and death of important persons are stored in our col­lective memory and marked by regular commemoration days (one such event be­ing the Leipzig Battle of Nations of Oc­tober 1813 – its half a million soldiers, 110,000 of them killed in action, making it the greatest battle of the 19th century). Richard Abel told me that in the USA from 1911 to 1915 a large number of films were made about the American Civil War, which had taken place fifty years earlier. Likewise, in Italy films were made about the last years of Risorgimento: La lampa­da della nonna is a dramatisation of the collective memory in the form of personal recollections of a first-person narrator. States and monarchies consolidate their power with jubilees commemorating their foundation. The tercentenary of the Ro­manovs’ accession to power was marked by, among other things, a film (by Aleksan­dr Drankov) about the history of the dy­nasty. And by a parade. In the film shot in Peterhof we see the Tsar and Tsarina, the Princesses and the Tsarevich moving, living, in the festive present of 1913, and we know the future – we know they are to be shot on 17 July 1918. How bright, how merry the future had been, as imagined in the 19th-century by Marenco (Excelsior) or Albert Robida (Saturnino Farandola)… Many military comedies were made (Poli­dor attendente), which would later be­come inconceivable, being too undigni­fied, while in tragic films death and disas­ter inevitably strike us as dark premoni­tions of war (Gebrochene Schwingen). An unrealized idea – which would have made our vertigo even more extreme – was to screen some more recent films set in 1913, to allow direct comparison with the filmed reality of 1913 (candidates were the 1955 and 1985 versions of Oberst Redl). Instead we included a stowaway, originally identified as Der Thronfolger (Emil Albes, 1913). A Mayerling drama, but which one? The Drama of Mayerling (1919), directed by Karl Gernhard with Eugen Neufeld (as Rolf) and Midy Elliot (Mary), or Kronprinz Rudolf (1919) by Rolf Randolf, starring Randolf and Thea Sandten? Knowledge­able spectator, do tell us!

Mariann Lewinsky