At the beginning of the 1930s, Benito Mussolini drained the Pontine Marshes or Agro Pontino south of Rome. The Fascists accomplished what generations since Antiquity had failed to achieve, and their land reclamation enabled the founding of five cities, including Sabaudia. Sabaudia was conceived as a model city intended to showcase Italy´s Rational Architecture, and it ultimately solidified architectonically into a Fascist utopia caught between Classicism and Modernism. Over the years, even leftist intellectuals like Pier Paolo Pasolini grew to admire Mussolini´s propagandistic structures, suggesting that this Fascist architecture did not violate Italy´s pristine landscape and people. Lotte Schreiber is citing statements by Pasolini who regularly summered at a beach house with a view of Sabaudia, "There is nothing Fascist to be found in Sabaudia, aside from a few facades."
The filmmaker repeatedly tests the veracity of this statement as she observantly captures the faces of various Sabaudia residents looking directly into her camera, filmically resembling still photographs. Lotte Schreiber charismatically visualizes a force-field outlined by Mussolini´s authoritarian architectural visions, Pasolini´s attempted reconciliation from the perspective of a mythic Marxist folk culture of resistance, and Sabaudia´s current incarnation as a historically blind tourist magnet. From the start, Homer´s lament, "Where goest thou, unhappy man?" accompanies the historically charged, black and white shots of a seemingly near mystical marsh landscape. Its complete demystification as achieved by the Fascists is conveyed by subsequent forest shots in color. In a concise exchange between black and white images underscored by audio recordings of a speech by Mussolini, and color shots of contemporary urban life in Sabaudia with its inhospitable architecture, Lotte Schreiber creates a formally beautiful and historically powerful portrait of a landscape and a city. (Alexandra Seibel)
Translation: Eve Heller
Sabaudia in Italy, created by Mussolini´s architects as a model "new fascist city", was supplied with extensive farm lands converted from marshes. Yet, despite its undeniably "brutal" architecture, creators including Alberto Moravia and Pier Paolo Pasolini subsequently found Sabaudia to be a wonderful, hospitable place – the sign of a genuine, traditional Italy, and its resistance to all modern ideologies. Lotte Schreiber constructs a multi-faceted, documentary view of Sabaudia, inspired by but going beyond Pasolini, portraying it as a paradoxical mixture of social class separation, nostalgia, and everyday whimsy. (Viennale 2018, Adrian Martin)
Essay, Documentary, Short film
English, German, spanish