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FLIPPER

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by Herbert Holba

grade: 8

In Flipper it is the cold, deafening and disturbing noise of the marbles within the game that takes centre stage. The woman speaks, but her words are inaudible. The man and the woman are close, but suddenly unable to move, since they seem to be tied in a sort of straitjacket. They both make faces and everything, for a moment, takes a deliberately grotesque turn.

A puppet world

A very important name in Austrian film history, Herbert Holba. Yes, because, in fact, the director, film historian and radio host has always shown great interest both in what is made abroad and in avant-garde cinema, which boasts numerous exponents in Austria. It is therefore not surprising that the films he directed are distinguished by a strongly experimental and unconventional approach and language. This, for instance, is the case with The First Day (1971), the only feature film he made, as well as the short film Flipper, shot in 1968.

The sound of a pinball machine is, then, the leitmotif of the entire film. A man and a woman look at each other intensely without speaking. Or rather, the woman speaks but we cannot hear her words. Their faces get closer and closer, almost touching, but, however, they never touch. Some men, meanwhile, observe the couple. Each of them wears a transparent plastic mask. Each of them moves in an almost mechanical way. What would happen, however, if someone were to remove the mask?

Life, normal everyday life, society, institutions, work. Human beings almost forget that they are human because of constant external pressures. In the world in which we live, we are moved almost as if we were puppets. As if we were marbles in a pinball machine. We do not know what will happen to us, we often move against our will. And because of this constant frenzy, we are unable to communicate with those around us. In Flipper it is the cold, deafening and disturbing noise of the marbles within the game that is the absolute protagonist. The woman speaks, but her words are inaudible. The man and the woman are close, but suddenly unable to move, since they seem to be tied in a sort of straitjacket. They both make faces and everything, for a moment, takes a deliberately grotesque turn.

Herbert Holba observes society with a realistic and ironic gaze and depicts it on the big screen in a completely unconventional way. Just as in The First Day, also in Flipper the director opted for black and white, perfectly capable of giving the short film universal connotations. Likewise, there is no dialogue in the film. The pictures speak for themselves through an unconventional and at the same time universal language. A frenetic editing, meanwhile, completes the work.

Despite having directed only one feature film during his career (in addition, of course, to several short films), Herbert Holba has repeatedly shown that he knows the film language very well (and not only theoretically), proving to be particularly curious and enthusiastic about experimenting. Flipper – like his other films – is still younger and more topical than ever. His mise-en-scene is still able, today as in the past, to surprise us, to unsettle us, to make us smile, to make us reflect.

Original title: Flipper
Directed by: Herbert Holba
Country/year: Austria / 1968
Running time: 6’
Genre: experimental, surreal
Cast: Hilde Berger, Götz Frisch, Dieter Haspel, Heinz Herki
Screenplay: Herbert Holba
Cinematography: Kurt Novacek
Produced by: Herbert Holba

Info: the page of Flipper on iMDb