Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan were both writers who met in Vienna just after World War II. Celan was a Romanian Jew, Bachmann an Austrian whose father was an active Nazi. But they connected and kept up a correspondence over many years, before and after having an affair, a correspondence filles with longings and what-ifs. Now singer and actress Anja Plaschg and actor Laurence Rupp are in a recording studio, reading those letters. As they uncover the depths of the relationship between Bachmann and Celan, they also learn more about each other.
I loved the idea of Die Geträumten, but I feared that it wouldn’t work for me because I’m simply bad at taking in stuff that is being read to me. And while I unfortunately was right with my fear, I still feel that Die Geträumten is a very worthwhile film.
I had known about the letter exchange between Celan and Bachmann before the film, but only in the vaguest of terms (guess what went on my reading list pretty immediately). And that was what ultimately made me stumble over the film and how it’s directed and set in scene: when I’m confronted with people reading out to me, especially when the language is rather poetic as it’s here, I want to grab the text from them and read it myself. I just can’t take in neither the beauty of the language, nor what’s being said on a hearing-only basis (when it’s being read at least, I can take in stuff people say to me).
That’s my own personal hang-up though and very little to do with the film. And since I liked the idea, I wanted to give it a try anyway. And I still think it’s an interesting way to approach these letters cinematically, and interesting blend of history and fiction.
What really didn’t work for me, though, is the (fictional) love story between Plaschg and Rupp. I didn’t think it added much to the story and it did ring a little hollow for me. At the same it does ask interesting questions about language: can you tell each other things like Bachmann and Celan told each other and have it not affect the relationship you have, even when you know that you’re reading other people’s words and sentiments?
I would like to rewatch the film again, maybe with subtitles, so I have something to hold on to as I listen to the reading. Or maybe having read the letters beforehand. Because it’s not a film I want to discard easily, even though it didn’t work that much for me the first time round.