Thursday, April 1, 2010


Showing at the Hot Docs Film Festival: Farewell, written and directed by Ditteke Mensink

Synopsis from the film's website:

Farewell is the travelogue and love story of the young aristocrat "newspaper girl" Lady Grace Drummond-Hay and the much older Karl von Wiegand, both correspondents for the Hearst Press empire. They are both passengers aboard the LZ 127 "Graf Zeppelin," the first zeppelin in history to circumnavigate the globe in 1929.

The voyage took 21 days and started off in New York. Via Friedrichshafen in Germany, across Siberia to Tokyo, across the Pacific Ocean to Los Angeles, the airship finally arrived back in New York greeted by much cheering and a ticker tape parade. During the adventurous trip the printing presses were working overtime, as it was followed closely and covered extensively. The voyage was a symbol of both technological progress and the improved relationship between two great nations: the United States and Germany. The outside world is unaware of the passionate love affair between Grace, a young widow, and Karl, a married man.

They are not alone, though. A crew of forty keeps the zeppelin in the air, led by the erudite German captain Hugo Eckener. Others aboard include Sir Hubert Wilkins, a famous Australian arctic explorer, commander Fujiyoshi, an important Japanese marine officer and William Leeds, a 26-year old multimillionaire who recently and famously married a Russian grand duchess and brought a portable gramophone on board. They all live together for 21 days in a 80-square-meter gondola underneath the giant zeppelin. The voyage is not without its dangers.

High in the sky the lucky passengers feast their eyes on landscapes and panoramas never seen before, on sprawling metropolises like London, Friedrichshafen and Berlin, Tokyo, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Vast and uninhabited landscapes come into view. White alpine peaks, oceans, the great swamps of Siberia.

Down on the ground the roaring twenties are still in full swing; there optimism and faith in progress reign supreme. Elsewhere, though, it's poverty and socialist revolutions. Fascist sentiments are slowly finding their breeding grounds, taking root in social structures, developing into nationalist and belligerent politics – particularly in the zeppelin's homeland, Germany.

In the course of the voyage the love between Grace and Karl is severely tested. The pressures of daily supplying copy to their chief editor Hearst keep growing as a media hype develops and they are confronted with the world below. Keeping their affair a secret in the small gondola becomes more and more exasperating and ultimately impossible. When Karls wife appears in a hotel in Los Angeles, their love is ruined, resulting in a painful and inevitable farewell. Flying in the Zeppelin over the cheering crowds in the streets of New York, the lovers lose touch.

Not much later the New York stock exchange crashes, causing many to lose their fortunes. This "Black Tuesday" means another field day for the press and leads to the final episode in the love affair between Grace and Karl.


No comments:

Post a Comment