Ruth BeckermannAustria89 minutes2016ColourGerman
Austrian filmmaker Ruth Beckermann recreates the amorous correspondence between poets Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan through the voices and bodies of two winsome young actors creating an audio recording of the letters in Vienna’s venerable Funkhaus.
In The Dreamed Ones, Austrian filmmaker Ruth Beckermann revisits the amorous correspondence between two of the most important postwar German-language poets, Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan. Disarmingly naked, filled with unrestrained avowals of lovesickness, envy, vulnerability, professional jealousy, regret, and undying sehnsucht, the letters chronicle an impossible love haunted not only by social complexities, but political and historical ones. (Celan was a Romanian-born Jew, while the Austrian Bachmann's father was a National Socialist.) Seizing upon the beauty and passion of the prose, Beckermann's film also poignantly evokes the transformations wrought upon it by time and transference as it recreates the writers' dreamy, decades-old dance of desire through the voices and bodies of two winsome young actors in the present.
Staged like an audio recording in Vienna's venerable Funkhaus, The Dreamed Ones depicts the reading of some of Bachmann and Celan's letters by theatre actor Laurence Rupp and singer-songwriter Anja Plaschg (who performs as Soap&Skin in Austria's alternative music scene). As the taping progresses, the duo gets terrifically caught up in the poets' captivating exchanges — and, perhaps, each other, glimmers and glances giving way to goosebumps as the epistolary ardour ascends. Beckermann intercuts her mesmerizing Kammerspiel with footage of Rupp and Plaschg's smoke breaks and languorous pauses between sessions, the atmosphere both light and flirty yet also fraught with awkward tension. Time becomes elastic as the film reconvenes the spirits of these forlorn lovers, who are absent but certainly not gone from this world.
With extraordinary confidence and grace, Beckermann's film testifies not only to the strength of enduring love and the timelessness of heartbreak, but cinema's powers of transcendence. Our pick for this year's perfect Wavelengths date movie, The Dreamed Ones renews one's faith in romantic love in the midst of our troubled and troubling times — and attests to the beauty of the letter in an era dominated by texting, Instagramming and Snapchatting.