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'The Ister' is a 3000km journey to the heart of Europe, from the mouth of the Danube river at the Black Sea, to its source in the German Black Forest. The film is based on the work of the most influential and controversial philosopher of the 20th century, Martin Heidegger, who swore allegiance to the National Socialists in 1933. By marrying a vast philosophical narrative with a fascinating journey up Europe's greatest waterway, the film invites the viewer to unravel the extraordinary past and future of 'the West.'Written by
David Barison and Daniel Ross
A journey-a selective journey- up the Danube, inspired by Heidegger's commentary on Hölderlin's poem, with commentary by three French philosophers on Heidegger's works and his relationship with the Nazis, with excursions to other people- an archaeologist, a bridge-building engineer, a botanist, the film-maker Syderberg- showing examples of or exemplifying Heidegger's ideas- taking three hours in all. A kindly critic would say it was interesting; A truthful critic would say that it was interesting as an example of how to do all the wrong things to make a film. Heidegger is not a simply-understood philosopher and we are assumed to know enough about his ideas to understand the complex discourses (eccentrically subtitled) of three French philosophers, chosen, perhaps, for their cinematic effect, which takes up most of the film. What they say- and the subtitles- distracts from the often interesting and beautiful pictures, and the pictures distract from what they say, you are left struggling to find out what is happening, but above all, there is the difficulty of film compared with a book; you cannot stop and work out what someone means, you cannot look up something in a dictionary or encyclopaedia. You could argue that is reflects Heidegger's own view of history and memory and their interaction, which would explain the selective history (which, if one of his commentators is correct, might reflect Heidegger's own selective view of history, one which excluded the influence of the Jews on European thought), but again it's impossible to give a context in a film. Against that is the fact that every moment of the film is interesting; it's just that they are interesting in an uncinematic way- you want to examine what is said, think about it, check the accuracy of the claims- do all the things that a film, which consists of one thing after another- just won't let you do. It's not a professional film-makers' film and it has none of the virtues of a professional film-makers' film but, to be fair, it also has none of the faults- the simplicity that becomes simple-mindedness, the brisk sweeping away of complexity- of a professional film-makers' film so, finally, yes, it is interesting in a good- or, at least, an interesting- way too.
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