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by Various Authors

grade: 7.5

Poetic images of tourists chatting and sunbathing aboard a boat, huge expanses of green, village people going about their daily business, and – last but not least – carefully curated, pastel-coloured cinematography are the trademarks of Donauballade, as well as of most documentaries like it produced in these years.

The Blue Danube

The surroundings of Vienna. The Burgenland. The Wachau. The many churches and abbeys and the picturesque villages. And then, simply, the Danube. The Danube that flows, placid and calm, through all these places. The Danube that, with its beaches, offers its visitors numerous moments of relax every year. The Danube on which boats full of tourists travel every day, wanting nothing more than to discover the beauty and secrets of its places. There are numerous documentaries highlighting the importance of these areas. And, in this respect, Donauballade – made in 1956 and recently re-presented by the Filmarchiv Austria on the occasion of the retrospective Kino auf Sommerfrische – is one of the most fascinating documents that has come down to us today.

Of this Donauballade we can only watch, unfortunately, a few clips. And yet, what remains can still convey the idea of what was initially intended, a short, precious documentary conceived for a tourist sponsorship. And, especially between the 1950s and the 1960s, documentaries of this kind – all with a rather short running time and intended for screening before films – were widely produced.

The birth of Donauballade, then, can be ascribed to this particular historical moment, when everything was aimed at enhancing the beauty of Austria. Interesting to observe, however, how each individual film was given a special touch. And, in this case, a voice-over describing what the camera had previously filmed, often amused itself by creating a sort of aura of mystery around the monuments observed, giving the entire work almost the character of a detective story – ironically, of course – and appealing to the spectator’s curiosity, eager to discover what mysteries and legends concerned the places shown.

It is, at the same time, poetic images of tourists chatting and sunbathing on board a boat, huge expanses of green, villagers going about their daily business and – last but not least – a carefully curated, pastel-coloured cinematography the real trademarks of Donauballade, as well as of most documentaries of this kind produced in these years.

These are images that, observed today, immediately become precious witnesses of a bygone era, in which the consequences of the recent war were still strongly felt, but in which, at the same time, there was an even stronger desire to recover and start again stronger than before. A time in which, at last, people were beginning to enjoy a certain sense of well-being again and in which they were much more curious and open to the new. The numerous artistic and film movements that emerged in these years prove this. But that, of course, is another story.

Original title: Donauballade
Directed by: Various Authors
Country/year: Austria / 1956
Running time: 5’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Various Authors
Cinematography: Various Authors
Produced by: Various Authors

Info: the website of the Filmarchiv Austria