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RED VIENNA AND THE WORLD OF MR. PIM

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From the 1920s onwards, new ways of staging were being experimented with in Russia through an innovative use of montage. Director Franz Rossak was also influenced by this artistic excitement in making Mr. Pim’s Trip to Europe. The film was conceived as a propaganda film for the Social Democratic Party in Red Vienna. Reality and fiction, as well as old and new, meet here to create something totally innovative for the time and with very specific aims.

From Russia to Austria

As we know, after the end of World War I (and the consequent end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), between 1918 and 1934 Vienna was ruled for the first time by a social democratic government. Red Vienna – this is the name given to this historical period – was therefore a particularly significant time, not only for Vienna itself, but also for the whole of Austria. Consequently, cinema also took a certain direction in this period, as a result of which a number of propaganda films, which, at the same time, also tried to learn from what had been realised in recent years in the rest of the world, in order to create a new way of depicting reality, were made (especially in view of the elections on 9 November 1930). The most important film made with such aims was Mr. Pim’s Trip to Europe (Franz Rossak, 1930). In order to better understand its historical importance during Red Vienna (and beyond), however, it is necessary to take a small leap back in time.

We find ourselves, then, around the mid-1920s in Russia. It was precisely at this time that a group of filmmakers headed by Lev Kuleshov tried to experiment with new cinematographic techniques in which each shot, through skilful editing, could acquire precise meanings depending on the images that preceded or followed it. The Montage of Attractions, therefore, immediately had a great resonance throughout the world. At the same time, Sergei Eisenstein taught us how certain shots could simply speak for themselves, without the need for any caption, thanks to their extraordinary visual power.

This artistic excitement consequently also influenced director Franz Rossak in making Mr. Pim’s Trip to Europe. The film, as already mentioned, was conceived as a propaganda film for the Social Democratic Party. Reality and fiction, but also old and new come together here to create something totally innovative for the time and with very specific aims.

This is the story of Elias Pim, editor of the News Chronicle in Springfield, who sets off on a long journey to Vienna (where his daughter lives) in order to document the ‘damage’ that the Social Democratic party had created during Red Vienna. Used to jotting down in his notebook everything he observed during his stay in Vienna, the man soon realised how, in reality, a social-democratic government was the right solution to help underprivileged families (further impoverished by the recent war), to protect workers and to prevent employers from exploiting their employees.

In Mr. Pim’s Trip to Europe, images and editing play a decidedly central role. Short fictional scenes alternate well with documentary footage (the strike scene, skilfully edited in an elliptical way, is particularly impressive in this respect). A strong contrast between Mr. Pim’s initial ideas and what we are shown by the camera at the same time takes centre stage. The images speak for themselves and the viewer knows how to interpret the facts. The important innovations of Russian cinema had been declined in Austria according to the political situation of the time and had given rise to a new way of understanding the seventh art.

Bibliography: Das tägliche Brennen: eine Geschichte des österreichischen Films von den Anfängen bis 1945, Elisabeth Büttner, Christian Dewald, Residenz Verlag

Info: the page of Mr. Pim’s Trip to Europe on iMDb