This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian) Deutsch (German)
by Various Authors
The railway line along which the so-called Mariazeller Bahn travelled is the oldest mountain railway line in Austria. This railway line was, around the 1910s, completely electrified, also thanks to the numerous hydroelectric power stations along its route. The documentary Eine Fahrt mit der Mariazeller Bahn gives us the opportunity to get to know this reality up close.
On the way to Mariazell
Why does a documentary like Eine Fahrt mit der Mariazeller Bahn – made in 1912 and produced by Sascha-Film – have such great art-historical relevance today? Soon said.
E-type locomotives (later called 1099), which operated on the first electrified railway networks from the early 20th century until 2013, are the oldest electric locomotives in the world. Similarly, the railway line along which the so-called Mariazeller Bahn ran is the oldest mountain railway line in Austria. This railway line was, around the 1910s, completely electrified, also thanks to the numerous hydroelectric power stations along its route. This was mainly due to the numerous waterfalls in the areas through which the railway passed.
These areas are magnificently portrayed in the documentary Eine Fahrt mit der Mariazeller Bahn, recently re-presented to the audience by the Filmarchiv Austria on the occasion of the online retrospective Kino auf Sommerfrische. This interesting work, therefore, not only represents, like Eine Fahrt mit der Bernina-Bahn (1914), one of the first Austrian railway films from the origins of cinema, but also stands out for the particular care and elegance with which it was made.
The camera, as usual, was placed on the last train carriage. At the same time, however, several other cameras were intent on filming the landscapes, for an exciting virtual journey through one of the oldest and most impressive railway lines in Austria.
And so, alongside a locomotive that, from time to time, peeps out from one side of the screen, picturesque waterfalls and imposing mountains suddenly catch the viewer’s attention. Nature and technology, then, are the absolute protagonists in Eine Fahrt mit der Mariazeller Bahn. And both seem to coexist in perfect harmony. And immediately, we are reminded of Österreichische Alpenbahnen – Eine Fahrt nach Mariazell, made just a year earlier and – although technically more rudimentary – equally precious and decidedly impressive.
The landscapes each time filmed take on different colours in the course of the film. This, too, was a widespread practice in the early 20th century: soaking films in special aniline dyes in order to give night or daytime scenes (or dramatic rather than comic scenes) each time different connotations.
And so, despite the fact that Eine Fahrt mit der Mariazeller Bahn was only made in 1912, we cannot fail to recognise in it a particular stylistic quality, as well as a marked lyricism. And the image of a cheerful little family about to cross a small wooden bridge at the end of the documentary is the perfect crowning glory of one of the oldest and most precious film documents of the origins of Austrian cinema.
Original title: Eine Fahrt mit der Mariazeller Bahn
Directed by: Various Authors
Country/year: Austria / 1912
Running time: 8’
Screenplay: Various Authors
Cinematography: Various Authors
Produced by: Sascha Film