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by Various Authors

grade: 7

“Bloch-Ziehen” im Burgenland is a little gem of Austrian cinema, which not only shows us a tradition unknown to most today, but is also a perfect depiction of an unusual and alienating era.

An unusual bride

There is an old tradition in Burgenland – now disused since 1975 – literally called “Bloch-Ziehen”. This tradition took place when, over the course of a year and, specifically, between one Carnival and another, no wedding was celebrated. In that case, therefore, the tallest tree in the forest was cut down and – decorated with lace and embroidery reminiscent of a wedding dress – was carried around town by boys and girls. This picturesque tradition was staged in the documentary “Bloch-Ziehen” im Burgenland, produced in 1934 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.

“Bloch-Ziehen” im Burgenland, therefore, is part of a long series of documentaries made in Austria mainly between the 1930s and 1940s. These documentaries had a purely propagandistic purpose and – at a time when there was not much freedom of expression due to the dictatorship – aimed, thus, to convey to the world the image of an Austria rich in history and culture, in which prosperity was part of everyday life.

Likewise, great importance was given to ancient folk traditions, to which, of course, also the Bloch-Ziehen belongs. And in this documentary, we can finally see what it is.

With a constant voice-over explaining the event shown to us, the documentary – after a brief pan shot over the town in which it is set – focuses mainly on the crowd, on the boys and girls intent on transporting the giant tree trunk, and finally on the artisans and workers of all kinds who, on the sides of the road, show off their craft.

And if, from time to time, it happens that someone enjoys looking at the camera or greeting the cameraman himself, there is also someone who, unfortunately, in getting a tooth pulled, does not manage to have as much fun as his friends. And, in fact, “Bloch-Ziehen” im Burgenland is pervaded by a playful atmosphere and an amused irony that is perfectly in line with what is depicted.

A little gem of Austrian cinema, then, which not only shows us a tradition unknown to most today, but is also a perfect depiction of an unusual and alienating era. An era in which, despite numerous restrictions, cinema never stopped. All this over a running time of just two minutes. Two minutes in which, however, the essence of a tradition and a timeless place, which nowadays takes on almost magical connotations, is perfectly conveyed.

Original title: “Bloch-Ziehen” im Burgenland
Directed by: Various Authors
Country/year: Austria / 1934
Running time: 2’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Various Authors
Cinematography: Various Authors
Produced by: Österreich in Bild und Ton

Info: the website of the Filmarchiv Austria