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by Johann Schwarzer

grade: 6.5

Although incomplete, Diana bathing – directed by photographer and chemist Johann Schwarzer and produced by the controversial Saturn-Film – is an important element in Austrian film history, which amuses us and can give us just two minutes of pleasant lightness.

Mischievous summer

One of the most important pioneers in Austrian film history is undoubtedly the photographer and chemist Johann Schwarzer, who, with his production company Saturn-Film, shot the first erotic short films from 1906 onwards, raising various scandals and the disappointment of the audience and the authorities. After Schwarzer had to close his business and after he enlisted in World War I, many films he made were unfortunately lost, while others are even incomplete. This is the case, for instance, with Diana bathing, made in 1907, of which only the first part remains today.

In Diana bathing, then, we see – in about a minute and a half – a young, elegant woman gaily walking towards a stream in the middle of nature. Determined to take a bath, the woman slowly begins to undress. The moment she takes off her stockings, the film ends. We do not know whether the second part was censored at the time (a highly improbable occurrence, since it was common to see nude scenes in Schwarzer’s films) or whether, more plausibly, it was lost or damaged.

As usual in the filmmaker’s works, therefore, the directorial approach in Diana bathing is extremely minimalist. A single static shot (which one assumes remained so during the entire film) shows us the woman from afar. The means to shoot films at the time were few and very rudimentary, although, as early as the 1910s, there was a strong focus on film production within national borders. In Schwarzer’s time, however, Austria was far behind the rest of the world in terms of this new invention. At the same time, people were pleasantly intrigued by this and already numerous viewers were visiting the various cinemas in the city, mainly watching short films and documentaries made abroad or by some of the professionals of the Lumière brothers or of the French production company Pathé who had temporarily moved to Austria.

Despite the erotic character and, indeed, the aforementioned nude scenes, Johann Schwarzer’s works are also characterised, however, by a welcome humour and light irony. No one seems to take himself too seriously in his films. This, therefore, is also the case in this Diana bathing, in which the cheerful attitude and the theatrical, often almost exaggerated and unnatural gestures of the young protagonist are the first thing that stands out.

Many years later, therefore, one cannot fail to recognise the charm and undisputed historical importance of this film, as well as of the many other films made by the controversial filmmaker. Although incomplete, Diana bathing is an important element in Austrian film history, which amuses us and knows how to give us just two minutes of pleasant lightness.

Original title: Diana im Bade
Directed by: Johann Schwarzer
Country/year: Austria / 1907
Running time: 2’
Genre: comedy, erotic
Screenplay: Johann Schwarzer
Cinematography: Johann Schwarzer
Produced by: Saturn-Film

Info: the page of Diana bathing on iMDb