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FILMS Austria

The Dreamed Ones: The endless dialogue of poets in love


- Viennese documentary maker Ruth Beckermann’s latest piece is an unclassifiable literary film that gives substance back to the passion of poets Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann

The Dreamed Ones: The endless dialogue of poets in love
Anja Plaschg and Laurence Rupp in The Dreamed Ones

Hardened Austrian documentary maker Ruth Beckermann offers us a one-of-a-kind experience with The Dreamed Ones [+see also:
film profile
, a film that was unveiled in the Forum section of the Berlin Film Festival last month, has just come out on top at the Diagonale Festival of Austrian Film held in Graz (8-13 March) where it won the Grand Diagonale Prize for Best Feature Film (see news article), and is now getting ready for the international competition of Parisian documentary festival Cinéma du réel. Indeed, the film eludes classic definitions without ostentation or illusion: it follows its course calmly and collectedly, throughout its duration, and, by giving body to the film, to the passionate relationship between poets Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann, which was nurtured for over twenty years by letters in which they wore their hearts on the sleeves, builds a bridge between the viewer and these literary voices captured in all their glorious truth, drawing strength from their vulnerability. 

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At the end of the 1940s, before settling in Paris, Paul Celan, a Romanian Jewish poet who survived the camps that left him without a father or a mother, met Ingeborg Bachmann, the daughter of a Nazi, in Vienna, as she was just starting out in her career. Their passion, nurtured by real letters and written words that were never sent, would never die, despite the distance that separated them most of the time, varying over the course of their respective lives – which continued to unfold for each, but which Beckermann presents as obscured by the everlasting love of the two authors, even after the Celan’s suicide. Here, the ethereal link between the epistolary lovers is the only thing that’s tangible, palpable. The director gives it body through the voices of two actors (Anja Plaschg and Laurence Rupp) as they read the letters in a recording studio, and through their personal reactions between readings, during their cigarette breaks, as they become increasingly involved in the complex feelings of Paul and Ingeborg – which are always stormy without ever losing their consistency.

In fact, here’s a blinding epiphany: whilst watching the actors reading Celan and Bachmann’s letters be overcome by the passion in those pages, the viewer is also pulled in, bit by bit in an irresistible way. What The Dreamed Ones (produced by the director’s company, Ruth Beckermann Filmproduktion) makes us feel, what the film makes us very aware of, is this small plane of eternity, that boundless something which makes these three small words ring out across distances and beyond death, something that resides in these words but cannot itself be put into words. And so, through this ‘spoken film’, by turning words into an experience, Beckermann captures true beauty: that inexpressible beauty that flows through words. A beautiful tribute to the work on language that guided all of Celan’s works.

(Translated from French)

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