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SYMPHONIE WIEN

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by Albert Quendler

grade: 8.5

Vienna is more alive than ever in Symphonie Wien. Albert Quendler, for his part, has opted for an extremely innovative directorial approach, creating a successful mix of film, dance, theatre and, of course, documentary film, without being afraid to ‘play’ with the seventh art, exploiting every possibility it offers us.

Vienna’s history

Over the years, the beautiful city of Vienna has been celebrated again and again by filmmakers from all over the world. Particularly noteworthy in this regard is the documentary Symphonie Wien, directed by Albert Quendler in 1952, recently re-presented to the audience by the Filmarchiv Austria, and which, through a fine blend of the arts, tells us precisely the story of Vienna, from its origins to the present day.

Numerous artists come together to create a wonderful symphony. Actors such as Vilma Degischer, Josef Meinrad, Hans Thimig and Felix Hubalek make their entrance on stage and each of them, together with dancers and musicians, tells us an important chapter of history. Albert Quandler’s camera focuses on their faces, their bodies, their hands and every detail, occasionally giving us glimpses of the city of Vienna, of the charming Wienerwald, of the spires of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, of the Hofburg gardens or even of some children running to school.

Vienna is more alive than ever in Symphonie Wien. Albert Quendler, for his part, opted for an extremely innovative directorial approach, dividing this important work of his into six sections – Initium, Andante, Adagio, Scherzo, Intermedium and Allegro – and creating a successful mix of film, dance, theatre and, of course, documentary film, without being afraid to ‘play’ with the seventh art, exploiting every possibility it offers us.

The bodies of the dancers move sinuously on a stage with minimalist sets. Suddenly they double, as if their souls were coming out of their bodies. And again, some drawings complement these choreographies, becoming essential elements to provide us with further details of the staged story. Lights and shadows make everything acquire three-dimensionality and make us immediately feel part of the wonderful world being depicted on the screen.

Symphonie Wien is a true declaration of love to the city of Vienna. A pulsating Vienna, rich in history and colour, which is not at all ‘penalised’ by the constant use of black and white. An extremely elegant black and white, perfectly in line with Albert Quendler’s graceful mise-en-scène.

The director, for his part, has always been particularly interested in the history of his city and country. His documentaries – with their extremely innovative approach – have in turn inspired numerous other filmmakers from all over the world and represent, today, an important historical document regarding not only the history of Austrian cinema, but even Austria itself. In Symphonie Wien, therefore, music, theatre and film come together to create something unique. A blend of the arts that in turn creates a beautiful harmony.

Original title: Symphonie Wien
Directed by: Albert Quendler
Country/year: Austria / 1952
Running time: 86’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Albert Quendler, Elio Carniel, Franz Theodor Csokor, Felix Hubalek
Cinematography: Elio Carniel
Produced by: Schönbrunnfilm

Info: the page of Symphonie Wien on iMDb; the page of Symphonie Wien on the website of the Filmarchiv Austria