Chamisso's Shadow

Chamisso's Shadow



Germany, 2016
Director: Ulrike Ottinger
It starts with Peter Schlemihl’s Miraculous Story, which tells of a man travelling the world in seven-league boots. Adelbert von Chamisso wrote the tale before setting off to Russia on scientific expedition in 1815.


He analysed the flora of Alaska and then explored the Northwest Passage, just like Cook and voyager Bering had done previously. Thus begins Ottinger’s journey from Alaska to Kamchatka via Chukotka, with her predecessors’ log books to accompany her on her way. While she describes Steller’s texts as “dramatic”, she considered Chamisso’s diaries lively and sympathetic. Ottinger also keeps a log book that bears the mark of her ethnographic and artistic interests which are also seen in images: water, fish, sea otters, stones, volcanoes, the tundra, houses, villages, photographs, objects, maps. The people she meets talk about their lives, about the past and present. She shows them working, singing and fishing, again and again. Time here doesn’t mean the film’s length but rather the centuries existing alongside one another, the time you gain in the cinema.


 

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