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by Various Authors

grade: 7.5

Already in the early years following the birth of cinema, there were numerous travel documentaries that showed the beauty not only of Austria, but also of the lands of its empire. And so, in 1913, Menaggio am Comer See (‘Menaggio on Lake Como’), produced by Sascha-Film, also saw the light of day.

That branch of the Lake of Como…

Lake Como. A picturesque place that, over the years, continues to attract numerous visitors from all over the world. Could neighbouring Austria not be interested in such beautiful location, to the point of wanting to portray it with its cameras? No sooner said than done. Already in the early years following the birth of cinema, in fact, there were numerous documentaries for touristic purposes aimed at showing the beauty not only of Austria itself, but also of the lands of its empire. And so, in 1913, Menaggio am Comer See (‘Menaggio on Lake Como’), produced by Sascha-Film and recently re-presented to the audience by the Filmarchiv Austria, on the occasion of the online retrospective Kino auf Sommerfrische, also saw the light in 1913.

Of Menaggio am Comer See, in fact, only short fragments have reached us, with a total running time of just over two minutes. And, to be exact, the footage preserved to date belongs to the second part of the documentary Comosee.

We do not, unfortunately, know today how long and complex the original Comosee was. Yet, however, thanks to Menaggio am Comer See we still can get a comprehensive, almost complete idea about the small town of Menaggio, right on the shores of the lake.

Between fixed camera shots and suggestive pan shots, we can count no less than six camera angles in Menaggio am Comer See. And, in addition, of course, to the wonderful landscapes depicted, the cameraman also wanted to focus on the life of the locals, giving us images of children intent on playing who, from time to time, also enjoy glancing curiously at the camera, or of women carrying huge baskets on their heads.

The various moments of the day are depicted with different colours of the film, obtained through the use of special aniline dyes in which the film was dipped. And so, in just a few minutes, we have a complete overview of life in a small town on the shores of one of Italy’s most picturesque lakes.

The historical background in which Menaggio am Comer See was shot is also particularly significant. We find ourselves, in fact, in 1913. About a year later, World War I would break out. This would have meant the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Austria’s consequent loss of many of its territories.

The wealth and peacefulness of these days would come to an end for a long, long time. And the images in this documentary thus become an even more precious document of a particularly significant era, for Austria as well as for the entire world. An era, after which nothing would ever be the same again, but which, thanks to cinema, can still be observed by all of us today, more than a century later.

Original title: Menaggio am Comer See
Directed by: Various Authors
Country/year: Austria / 1913
Running time: 2’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Various Authors
Cinematography: Various Authors
Produced by: Sascha Film

Info: the website of the Filmarchiv Austria