KURORT BADEN BEI WIEN

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by Karl Köfinger

grade: 7

When we watch a film like Kurort Baden bei Wien today, we realise how valuable it is as a document of a bygone era. An era – between the two wars – in which people tried in every way possible to return to a normal life. A time in which – albeit somewhat later than the rest of the world – cinema had also become popular in Austria.

On holiday at the spa

There is a series of short films – shot in Austria from the 1920s to the early 1930s – intended exclusively to show the beauty of certain places and regions. These films were shot, in their time, by the director Karl Köfinger, one of the pioneers of Austrian cinema, who often even made short films on behalf of the Austrian postal service, travelling in motorised postal vehicles with his camera. One of these films is Kurort Baden bei Wien (‘Baden spa resort near Vienna’), made in 1921.

Kurort Baden bei Wien – presented by the Filmarchiv Austria as part of the retrospective Kino auf Sommerfrische – is considered to be the first important film documenting everyday life in the spa town of Baden, south of Vienna. Numerous images of patients and visitors crowding now the swimming pools, now the various rooms of the health resort enliven the entire film. Similarly, scenes shot now at night, now in daylight – skilfully coloured as was usual in the glorious silent era – manage to convey to the audience a sense of tranquillity with even a welcome touch of irony.

In terms of directing, this Kurort Baden bei Wien is rather elementary: Karl Köfinger, for his part, opts mainly for static shots, exclusively with a static camera, except, of course, for the moments when the camera itself is placed on vehicles or for brief, sporadic pans. But if we consider that this work was made in 1921 – when in the rest of the world the seventh art had evolved quite quickly and different ways of understanding cinema itself had already been experimented with – we realise how this film by Köfinger may seem, at times, somewhat anachronistic and out of step with the times.

This can be deduced, in fact, not only from a documentary approach closely reminiscent of the early films of the Lumière brothers (it is impossible not to notice, in this regard, the citation to the very famous L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat, when we see the Südbahn arriving at Baden station), but also from the numerous captions present, at times perhaps excessively redundant.

But that’ s no matter. After all, when we watch a film like Kurort Baden bei Wien today, we realise how valuable it is as a document of a bygone era. An era – between the two wars – in which people tried in every way possible to return to a normal, peaceful life. An era in which – albeit somewhat later than the rest of the world – even in Austria, by then, cinema had become popular.

And, in the end, one cannot fail to acknowledge a certain delicacy and lyricism in Karl Köfinger’s film. Especially when we see a group of children playing carefree in a courtyard or an engaged couple chatting while observing the hills surrounding Baden on a hot summer afternoon.

Original title: Kurort Baden bei Wien
Directed by: Karl Köfinger
Country/year: Austria / 1921
Running time: 7’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Karl Köfinger
Cinematography: Karl Köfinger
Produced by: Ing. Köfinger-Film

Info: the program Kino auf Sommerfrische on the website of the Filmarchiv Austria; the page of Kurort Baden bei Wien on www.yumpu.com