Retrospective Ruth Beckermann
One of the amazing things about Ruth Beckermann’s films is that they keep returning obsessively to the same issues, each time adding to them new and surprising perspectives and nuances. With each film from the selection screened during our festival, she retrieves particular histories of Jews from before and after the Holocaust in World War II and detects traces of antisemitism still passed down to this day. The past shines a light over the present in the worlds captured by Beckermann, it is permanently and pervasively visible and perceptible, like an inheritance impossible to ignore that we must dutifully acknowledge and accept.
The people are the ones who connect the different times, and both the qualities and faults of past eras are conveyed through them. For this reason, the filmmaker turns her attention to them and the details relevant to each, making the character portraits in her films always memorable and complex. In “East of War” or in “Homemad(e)” this interest is the most prominent, as their entire structure is based on interactions with and between people. In the former, the heated discussions between old members of the Wehrmacht from World War II describe the dormant state of a society whose members seem to represent their past in completely opposing ways and, more often than not, relying on a distortion of various historical events attested through indisputable documents. In the latter, the encounters with the very ethnically diverse inhabitants of the viennese Marc-Aurel Street have the lighthearted air and the candour of a chat among friends. But as the film unfolds it becomes obvious that, outside this eden of tenderness and communion, fascist political and social groups are preparing for action, threatening the very foundation of such a multi-ethnical and multi-cultural form of cohabitation.
A battle seems to be fought in Ruth Beckermann films between the joy of capturing people’s liveliness, the vivacity of the places encountered and the lucidity of constantly being able to discern that every moment of grace is overshadowed by a sense of menace, born out of a complex of different factors. There is certain voluptuousness in rendering the glimpses of beauty in life, but also in intimating that everything around us can undoubtedly crumble in an instant as a result of human choice and not of divine intervention, just as it has happened before, not too long ago.