Documentary feature about the traditional Viennese cinema "Bellaria", which is specialized in German cinema from the 20s, 30s and 40s and its regular customers, whose idols are stars like ... See full summary »
Documentary feature about the traditional Viennese cinema "Bellaria", which is specialized in German cinema from the 20s, 30s and 40s and its regular customers, whose idols are stars like Zarah Leander or Karl Schönböck. They're visiting regularly, some of them even daily, to see the movies of their youth. Written by
Moritz Muehlenhoff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
BELLARIA is the story of a movie theater that has become a time machine. The film takes its name from a small neighborhood cinema in Vienna that shows old classic (and not so classic) films from the Ufa era to a motley assortment of senior citizens who can remember the days when the German film studio (die Ufa) was a match for Hollywood in every way.
Although BELLARIA is technically a German documentary made in Austria by a Swiss-German director, Douglas Wolfsperger has managed to create an atmosphere that has more of the feel of a charming tale than a documentary. His truly unique film offers us a glimpse into the lives of an eccentric group of aging Austrians, parts of Austrian history, and the city of Vienna itself.
Wolfsperger opens the film with scenes of the aged moviegoers getting ready to go to the Bellaria, which has become a vital social gathering place for these widows and widowers living otherwise lonely lives with memories of vibrant, more active times. Herr Mosch, the projectionist, is himself one of these lonely folks who enjoy returning to the days of their prime via shimmering black-and-white images on the Bellaria's screen. He has access to a treasure trove of cans of old Ufa prints that he brings to life each week.
When the Bellaria regulars gather for the 4:00 p.m. show to see "unvergessene Filme und unvergessene Stars," the lobby turns into an old folks home as they sit around having refreshments prior to the screening. When the theater falls into darkness and the screen lights up, we share their experience of being transported to another place and time - not just on the screen, but in their own lives. While it is interesting to enter the black-and-white Ufa world of the 1930s and '40s, we also share in the lost dreams and daily struggles of the audience. All of these people in their 80s and 90s live in the past, some in quite interesting pasts. One says: "I live in the past. I have no future." But they all know that only the flickering images of their beloved movie stars are truly immortal.
All of the characters who visit the Bellaria are interesting, but some, particularly the Tenbuss twins, stand out. The Tenbuss sisters have come all the way from Munich to attend a special appearance at the Bellaria by one of the few old Ufa actors (Karl Schönböck) who are still alive. They live to collect autographs and photos of such stars. And to pester them. Watching them in action is both amusing and painful at the same time.
In the end Wolfsperger leaves his subjects with their proud dignity, even after revealing their foibles, prejudices, and weaknesses. As you laugh, cry and wince, it is hard not to take these oldsters into your heart. You'll leave the theater just as they do feeling a little better about life on planet earth.
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