March 11th, 2021

I Was, I Know Not Where

Windy night, but not so very windy that I needed to worry about tiles lifting off the roof. The temperature is in double figures and the sun shows through fleetingly....

I scrolled through the heaps of free product Amazon Prime makes available to me in search of something that hadn't been machine tooled and polished to a high gloss- and settled on a German movie from 1995 called Marie's Song. I'd never heard of it or its director, Nico von Glasow- but it looked like the kind of thing I'd like- and it was. In fact, raise that "like" to "love". It's 1813, there's a war on, with French soldiers wandering about, we're somewhere in Germany- and there's a castle cum country house where a teenage girl lives with her mother- who is a scientist- and her governess- who is religious and wound up close to snapping point. Various people show up, including a shy boy who plays the flute, his sadistic and slightly ridiculous uncle, a band of displaced persons led by a Byronic psychopath, and a covey of little girls whose presence is never explained. In fact very little is explained. The action and structure are dreamlike without ever quite tipping into fairytale. Guns are toted and occasionally go off.

The movie features an international cast- German, French, Irish- which could explain why there's so little dialogue- and is headed by the French actress Sylvie Testud, who looks about 12, is playing a character aged 16 and was actually in her mid 20s at the time. It has a subtitle, Ich war, Ich weiss nicht wo- which translates as "I was, I know not where"- which captures the atmosphere very nicely. It won a prize for its cinematography.