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by Various Authors
Österreichische Alpenbahnen. Eine Fahrt nach Mariazell (“Austrian Alpine Railways. A Trip to Mariazell”), filmed in 1910, and one of the milestones of early Austrian cinema, includes small camera movements for the first time, with a direction that, although decidedly essential, seems much more self-confident than what had been seen just a few years earlier. At the Viennale 2019, as part of the retrospective dedicated to Louise Kolm-Fleck.
A small town in the Alps
One of the most famous films made in Austria in the early 20th century is undoubtedly the documentary Österreichische Alpenbahnen. Eine Fahrt nach Mariazell (“Austrian Alpine Railways. A Trip to Mariazell”), filmed in 1910 by authors not appearing in the credits and produced by pioneer Louise Kolm-Fleck for the Österreichisch-Ungarische Kino-Industrie. This work, therefore, was re-presented to the audience at the Viennale 2019, as part of the retrospective dedicated precisely to Louise Kolm-Fleck.
Considered one of the milestones of early Austrian cinema, Österreichische Alpenbahnen. Eine Fahrt nach Mariazell was produced just two years after the first Austrian film (Von Stufe zu Stufe by Heinz Hanus) was made. And if, then, the first films were obviously produced in Austria many years after the invention of cinema, with a rather clumsy directorial approach and cameras that were still too rudimentary and heavy to be moved, this film presents for the first time some small camera movements, with a direction that, although still very basic, seems, in fact, much more self-conscious than what had been seen just a few years earlier.
With a camera initially placed on a train, then, Österreichische Alpenbahnen. Eine Fahrt nach Mariazell opens with a beautiful view of picturesque Alpine landscapes around the tracks on which said train runs. And so, suddenly, we become passengers to Mariazell, in a series of shots that show us from time to time different perspectives.
A film, this one, which, during the second part, concentrates exclusively on the architecture of the place, daring successful pan shots, and which – with well studied direction – places the camera points farther and farther away from the village buildings, until arriving in the mountain opposite, offering a last glimpse of the picturesque Mariazell.
When watching Österreichische Alpenbahnen. Eine Fahrt nach Mariazell, among other things, there is a further particular detail , namely the different colours that the shots take on from time to time. This was a very frequent operation in the 1910s and consisted in colouring the films by means of a technique called ‘virage’, which meant dipping them in special aniline dyes. Following this, therefore, a different colour could be chosen from time to time depending on the day, the night, the dramatic nature of certain moments or particularly funny scenes. The same applies, then, to Österreichische Alpenbahnen. Eine Fahrt nach Mariazell, in which, especially during the scene of the journey, it now appears in red, now in blue, to indicate the different times of day.
A final consideration. It is rather interesting to observe how, once at the station, the Flecks’ camera was placed right next to the tracks, in order to film a train that had just arrived at its destination. And so, we are immediately reminded of the very famous Arrivée d’un Train en Gare de La Ciotat by the Lumière brothers (1895), which had so terrified the audience of the time, who were definitely frightened by the train that seemed to want to run them over. At this point, a question arises: did the audience in Austria react in the same way while watching this Österreichische Alpenbahnen. Eine Fahrt nach Mariazell?
Original title: Österreichische Alpenbahnen. Eine Fahrt nach Mariazell
Directed by: Various Authors
Country/year: Austria / 1910
Running time: 6’
Screenplay: Various Authors
Produced by: Österreichisch-Ungarische Kino-Industrie