It is a time when political matters appear to be quite falling apart as the boring pedantic Johnson scrabbles his way to power. The badly led opposition seems occupied in necessary self-immolation.Consequently, everyone needs some relief from the current tedium and the dear old Radio Times proves useful as it suggests highly interesting programmes in odd recherche places.
New angles on post-war Germany and Austria
proved to be one such opportunity and last night’s programme compared by the heyzerik but delightful Anne McElvoy with Florian Huber, Sophie Hardach, Adam Scovell and Tom Smith have produced a very interesting programme. If you have time, you will find it at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0006sjx
I love these lines from this Polish Nobel Prize-winning poet, Wislawa Symborska:-
“We stand in the meadow where it became flesh,
and the meadow is silent as a false witness.
Sunny. Green. Nearby, a forest
with wood for chewing and water under the bark-
every day a full ration of the view
until you go blind. Overhead, a bird-
the shadow of its life-giving wings
brushed their lips. Their jaws opened.
Teeth clacked against teeth.
At night, the sickle moon shone in the sky
and reaped wheat for their bread.
Hands came floating from blackened icons,
empty cups in their fingers.” They come from her poem “Some like poetry” which can be read at http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/wislawa_szymborska/poems/11678
Her poems are also available in German from Suhrkamp
“Laszlo Nemes’ sumptuously photographed drama is set in 1913 in Budapest, where the existential anxieties of the Austro-Hungarian Empire are embodied in the slender form of Irisz Leiter (Juli Jakab), a young woman with a dark past.
She bears the name of the city’s most stylish hat store, Leiter’s: her parents died there in a fire when she was two, and Irisz was raised elsewhere but now returns, looking for work, and answers.
Instead she finds secrets, a wall of silence, and dark rumours about a murderous brother she never knew she had.
Full of dark portents of the continental carnage to come, Sunset is Kafkaesque, melodramatic, enthralling.”
This is not an easy film to understand and it certainly is not in the usual genre of an historical film. Much is about the contrast between the superficial elegance and the arduous and dangerous conflicts beneath this attractive outward view. However, it has to be said that I very much enjoyed the visual presentation of the surface; the milliner’s store with its stupendous colourful hats and the horse drawn carriages. History crept in when a news-vendor announces that the Austro-Hungarian empire is to launch another battleship- jogging the memory that this primarily land locked empire held a port at Trieste. As I have yet to visit Budapest, although I have visited both Vienna and Bratislava, this area intrigues me. This point in time too is the subject to much of the concerns of the novels of Joseph Roth and the magnificent films of that other brilliant Hungarian director, from a previous generation, stván Szabó. Also, for good measure, the Empress Sisi arrives from Vienna in a somewhat grumpy personification. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archduchess_Elisabeth_Marie_of_Austria
In thinking about this film, I remembered that the famous psychoanalyist, Melanie Klein was living in Budapest at this time. She received her psychoanalytic education with Sándor Ferenczi in Budapest during World War I. She specialized in his advice in child analysis and became one of the first in this field. I mention this because much of the film really deals with states of mind like confusion, exclusion and certain feminist attitudes. It is interesting to see what the film is saying about issues in the contemporary world and in its concentration upon one individual’s perceptions and their attempts to understand relationships with siblings, we seem to be in territory where Klein’s work is uniquely valuable. Here is her photograph wearing an elegant hat.