Sunday, January 10, 2010
THE ISTER, via Barison & Ross, combines Philosophy, History, Holocaust & Travel
Unusual does not begin to describe THE ISTER, a one-
of-a-kind, model mash-up of philoso-
phy, history, travel visuals and Holo-
caust hauntings from filmmakers David Barison and Daniel Ross. Drawing from a 1942 lecture series given by German philosopher Martin Heidegger on a poem by Friedrich Hölderlin called The Ister (the ancient Greek name for the Danube river), the filmmakers talk to several living philosophers about Heidegger and his theories, while showing us some simply splendid scenery and visuals -- much of these along or near the Danube -- that play into the conversation with beauty, irony and perspicacity. From the very first, their film should involve the intelligent viewer visually and intellectually.
TrustMovies chose to break up his viewing into segments between 30 and 60 minutes each, which helped. In fact, the filmmakers themselves have provided their own sections (four of them, I believe) that divide the piece nicely, and they even include their own short intermission slightly more than halfway along.
Bernard Stiegler (shown above), Jean-Luc Nancy and Philippe Lacoue Labarthe and filmmaker (Hitler: A Film from Germany ) Hans Jürgen Syberberg (shown below). Each proves as interesting and different as the next and what they have to say helps form a kind of mosaic around the subjects of technology and its uses; memory and history; politics, war and genocide; hypocrisy and humanity; early forms of globalization;
and much, much more.
Mauthausen concentration camp and Heidegger's idea that connects the production of agriculture to gas chamber corpses to blockades and famine to hydrogen bombs. One of the film's true moments of high drama (well, high drama for this kind of film) comes as one of our philosophers wrestles mightily with the idea of accusing Heidegger of being a Nazi. (Well, he was. But he was more than that, right?) During the sort-of-tour of Mauthausen, the camera keeps going to white, as though actually seeing the place might be too much for us. (Other than these arty moments, the visuals are generally direct and appropriate.)
financial system) and into history and the very long view. While this may not put food upon the table, it does provide some wonderful for thought. Hugely satisfying, Barison, Ross and their interviewees offer up a unique experience and a kind of respite from the cares of the moment -- while bringing us up against age-old concerns that simply do not go away.
Icarus Films, for sale there, as well as elsewhere, and for rent via Netflix.