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THE BALLAD OF MARIA LASSNIG

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by Maria Lassnig and Hubert Sielecki

grade: 7.5

Lively, colourful, ironic and self-ironic, The Ballad of Maria Lassnig, the latest short film by the famous Carinthian painter, is a veritable hymn to life and beauty, which has always made us all feel younger, richer and happier.

Long live Art!

The painter Maria Lassnig (1919 – 2014) is undoubtedly an extremely fascinating figure within the Austrian cultural scene. Used to make an in-depth study of the human body, understood as a mutant entity also – and above all – in relation to the world in which we live, the artist has also given us several experimental and animated films during her long and prolific career. Among these, the most famous is undoubtedly The Ballad of Maria Lassnig, made in 1992 together with Hubert Sielecki, the last film made by the Carinthian artist.

The Ballad of Maria Lassnig, therefore, can effectively be considered as her definitive cinematic work. A short film in which Lassnig finally appears in front of the camera (appearing from time to time on the sides of the frame) to tell us her story and her special relationship with art. All this, of course, happens in a very singular way. Throughout the film, in fact, the director literally ‘sings’ her story to us, starting by telling us about the moment she was born, and going on to tell us about how producing art makes her younger and younger despite the passage of time.

Her drawings, colourful and unbelievably alive and pulsating in their two-dimensionality, are again the absolute protagonists. Young Maria has just been born. The relationship between her parents, however, never works out as it should and quarrels between her mother and father become more and more frequent. Similarly, at school her classmates continue to treat her badly and the nuns never prove to be good teachers willing to listen to the needs of their students. Her particular family situation, but also a strong, very strong desire to run away, make her decide never to marry and to explore new worlds, first in Paris, then in the United States, before returning to Austria for good.

Whereas in her other films, she had dealt with more abstract and universal concepts, focusing her attention on the human body, on women within the society in which we live, and on the not always simple relationships between couples (think, for example, of works such as Baroque Statues, made in 1970, Iris, 1971, but also Couples, 1972), in The Ballad of Maria Lassnig , the filmmaker focuses exclusively on herself. Similarly to what had happened in Selfportrait (1971). Unlike her previous animated short, however, on this occasion we notice how the narrative is more classical and linear, how events are told in chronological order, how her drawings have less abstract connotations.

The Ballad of Maria Lassnig was made some twenty years after what is considered to be her most prolific filmmaking period. One might even think that the director, in this work, wanted almost to draw a conclusion to her life and career, while at the same time making a heartfelt homage to art in all its forms. And, in fact, The Ballad of Maria Lassnig is a true hymn to life and beauty, which has always made us all feel younger, richer, happier. A colourful declaration of love to the art world that comes to us like a fresh spring breeze.

Original title: Maria Lassnig Kantate
Directed by: Maria Lassnig, Hubert Sielecki
Country/year: Austria / 1992
Running time: 8’
Genre: animation, musical, experimental
Cast: Maria Lassnig
Screenplay: Maria Lassnig
Cinematography: Maria Lassnig
Produced by: Hubert Sielecki

Info: the page of The Ballad of Maria Lassnig on iMDb; the page of The Ballad of Maria Lassnig on the website of the sixpackfilm