Stannebein is "an inventor of air ships for the benefit of mankind," or so he sees himself and his place in world history. In order to secure financing for his fancy, he adopts to the ... See full summary »
Stannebein is "an inventor of air ships for the benefit of mankind," or so he sees himself and his place in world history. In order to secure financing for his fancy, he adopts to the rhetoric of the time and, unwittingly, ends up building an air base for the Nazi German Legion Condor in Spain. His protest to the Nazi authorities is, of course, in vain. In 1945, his family starts to inquire about him, surmising that his past and his patents might be valuable. However, Stannebein's last residence, the insane asylum, stands empty... Written by
I have seen this film ("The Airship") at a one-time screening in Amherst, MA, and I say without the slightest hesitation that it is a masterpiece, not only this director's best film, but one of the best two or three films to come out of East Germany. The parallel stories-- of the obsessive would-be airship inventor who sacrifices everything for a dream that always eludes him, and the story of his grandson, who goes looking for the old man in the chaos of post-WWII Berlin-- are equally compelling, though perhaps the boy's often soulful journey will resonate with a wider audience. All in all, the film is a metaphor for artistry, for all the talents and geniuses who never find an outlet to express themselves (a situation often familiar enough to the serious filmmaker)--either because of an oppressive society or because social and moral problems tend to be ignored by the individualist, consumed by the search of self-expression.
This is truly Rainer Simon's triumph and an essential contribution to European art cinema. Personally, I continue to be struck by Simon's affinity to his West German contemporary Herzog (it might even be seen as a more complex and successful version of what Herzog was trying to do in his recent film "Invincible"). I was overjoyed to have had the opportunity to see it and I only hope that it will find its way to DVD and commercial availability, which is happening to some of the director's other films.
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