Maria von Herbert is based almost exclusively on the original letters between the Carinthian philosopher and Immanuel Kant and between them and anyone who took part in the complex discussion that ensued. The words in voice over constantly take centre stage. Meanwhile, elegant images filmed exactly in the large villa that was once the headquarters of the Herbertkreis take us by the hand into the world of the protagonist. At the K3 Film Festival 2023.
The sorrows of young Maria
Few people today remember the name Maria von Herbert. Yet she was a figure of great importance in the history of Carinthia (and beyond). Indeed, Maria von Herbert was Carinthia’s first feminist philosopher and, living at the time of the French Revolution, she also wrote letters to the great Immanuel Kant. Therefore, the directors Christian Brandstaetter, Violetta Stuchlik, Pia Telebuh and Barbara Schlesinger Gomez have recounted part of her life and, specifically, her friendship with Kant in their short film Maria von Herbert, presented as part of the K3 Film Festival 2023 programme.
Maria (played by Judith Thaler) is twenty-two years old and, together with her brother Franz Paul, attends the Herbertkreis, a renowned Carinthian philosophical circle with many women as members. After a love affair ended badly, Maria decides to write to her idol Immanuel Kant, who is now sixty-seven years old and much more pragmatic and rationalistic than her. Their correspondence dates back to the historical period between 1791 and 1803.
Divided into four acts, Maria von Herbert is based almost exclusively on the original letters between the two protagonists and between them and anyone who took part in the complex and never trivial discussion that ensued. The words (all strictly in voice over) constantly take centre stage. Meanwhile, elegant images filmed exactly in the large villa that was once the headquarters of the Herbertkreis take us by the hand into Maria’s world, making us immediately become part of her everyday life.
The filmmakers, for their part, have opted for a particularly contemplative approach, in which the complexity of philosophical reflections is well balanced by the tranquillity within a large villa in the midst of nature, as well as a solitary walk by the lake. And so the element of water also comes into play. Water as a symbol of death and rebirth. By immersing oneself in water, one can abandon one’s old self forever and start living again with a new, important self-awareness.
And so, Maria von Herbert is also characterised by extraordinary visual care. The images simply speak for themselves and follow in parallel the inner growth of the protagonist, until the longed-for liberation. A short, but extremely important chapter of Carinthian history has once again come to life on the movie screen. A hymn to the value of women and the story of a long journey that began many and many years ago, and which even today proves to be extraordinarily topical. An extremely sensitive and personal story that immediately takes on universal connotations.
Original title: Maria von Herbert
Directed by: Christian Brandstaetter, Violetta Stuchlik, Pia Telebuh, Barbara Schlesinger Gomez
Country/year: Austria / 2023
Running time: 17’
Cast: Judith Thaler
Screenplay: Christian Brandstaetter, Violetta Stuchlik, Pia Telebuh, Barbara Schlesinger Gomez
Cinematography: Christian Brandstaetter, Violetta Stuchlik, Pia Telebuh, Barbara Schlesinger Gomez
Produced by: Christian Brandstaetter, Violetta Stuchlik, Pia Telebuh, Barbara Schlesinger Gomez