DAS HISTORISCHE PERCHTOLDSDORF

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by Various Authors

grade: 6.5

Das historische Perchtoldsdorf – produced in 1933 by Österreich in Bild und Ton – is part of a series of propaganda-oriented documentaries shot in Austria mainly between the 1930s and 1940s.

Medieval atmosphere

Perchtoldsdorf is an old market place located near Vienna. Housed within a picturesque medieval fortress, the site has numerous attractions – including an imposing fortress tower, the Holy Trinity Column, a church and the ruins of an old manor house. What better film, then, to best convey the power of such a place than Das historische Perchtoldsdorf?

Das historische Perchtoldsdorf – produced in 1933 by Österreich in Bild und Ton and recently re-presented to the audience by the Filmarchiv Austria on the occasion of the online retrospective Kino auf Sommerfrische – is part of a series of propaganda-oriented documentaries shot in Austria mainly between the 1930s and 1940s.

The historical context in which this film was produced is therefore particularly interesting. Adolf Hitler had just come to power and, as we all know, there was not much freedom of expression for artists and writers of the time (it is no coincidence that many of them were forced to emigrate to the United States or South America). At the same time, those who stayed at home had to obey certain rules in order to be able to work and produce art in peace.

So it was no coincidence that film industry in this period was exclusively oriented towards the creation of the image of a cheerful, happy, wealthy and opulent Austria (the Wiener Films, in this regard, are a clear example), in which prosperity concerned practically everyone. The image of an Austria to be conveyed abroad, just as Russia had also begun to do years earlier with its many famous propaganda films.

And what better occasion, then, to bring to life – in parallel with the fictional feature films – a series of short documentaries aimed at highlighting the beauty of the landscapes and the history of the place? These short films (generally conceived for a film screening preceding the actual feature film) were – along with the aforementioned Wiener Films – a constant within the national film industry.

And it is precisely in this particular historical-political context, therefore, that Das historische Perchtoldsdorf, in which a rather simple and elementary directorial style – complete with brief shots that at times seem like postcards – is simultaneously dubbed by a voice-over to briefly describe what the camera has just filmed, saw the light.

A directorial approach, then, that does not aim to give the film a particularly characterising connotation, but, on the contrary, the most neutral mise en scène possible that could almost be compared to a commercial. But then again, these were some of the rules to follow at the time. And from this perspective, Das historische Perchtoldsdorf undoubtedly ranks as a valuable document and perfect representative of a particularly significant era in world history and – why not? – also for Austrian cinema itself.

Original title: Das historische Perchtoldsdorf
Directed by: Various Authors
Country/year: Austria / 1933
Running time: 5’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Various Authors
Cinematography: Various Authors
Produced by: Österreich in Bild und Ton

Info: the website of the Filmarchiv Austria