Calling all Derridettes: The headiest movie in the annual “Film Comment Selects” is surely The Ister, a three-hour Australian cine-essay inspired by Martin Heidegger’s 1942 lecture course on the 19th-century German poet Friedrich Hölderlin’s Danubian ode.
David Barison and Daniel Ross’s digital-video doc travels upriver past presidential visitations (Romania), bombed bridges (Serbia), Stalin-era steelworks (Hungary), Nazi concentration camps (Mauthausen), and mock classical temples (Bavaria) to the heart of darkness, the Black Forest cabin where Heidegger wrote Being and Time. There is evidently a German term for aquatic road movies—wasserstrasse—but The Ister also offers a stream of consciousness. Three philosophers, including onetime bank robber Bernard Stiegler, and filmmaker Hans-Jürgen Syberberg provide commentary on Greek myths, European history, and Heidegger’s theory of agribusiness.
You may wonder if the humble DV mini-cam is the technology that enframes the river’s essence. Indeed, the onrushing landscape, however despoiled, is a Bazinian counterpoint to the babbling brook of Heideggerian seinundzeitis. The movie’s single Sunday-afternoon screening will be followed by a panel discussion.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 1, 2005