|Directed by||David Barison|
The Ister is a 2004 documentary film directed by David Barison and Daniel Ross. The film is loosely based on the works of philosopher Martin Heidegger, in particular the 1942 lecture course he delivered, Hölderlins Hymne «Der Ister», concerning a poem, Der Ister, by the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin. The film had its premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2004.
The Ister was inspired by a 1942 lecture course delivered by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, published in 1984 as Hölderlins Hymne "Der Ister". Heidegger's lecture course concerns a poem by the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin about the Danube River.
The film The Ister travels upstream along the Danube toward its source, as several interviewees discuss Heidegger, Hölderlin, and philosophy. The film is also concerned with a number of other themes, including: time, poetry, technology, home, war, politics, myth, National Socialism, the Holocaust, the ancient Greek polis, Sophocles, Antigone, Agnes Bernauer, Edmund Husserl, the 1991 battle of Vukovar, and the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
The Ister features extensive interviews with the French philosophers Bernard Stiegler, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, as well as with the German film director Hans-Jürgen Syberberg. Other interviews are conducted with a bridge engineer (Nemanja Calic), an amateur botanist (Tobias Maier), and a Romanian archaeologist (Alexandru Suceveanu).
An extended interview with philosopher Werner Hamacher is also included as one of the "extra features" on the DVD.
The film travels upriver: from the Danube Delta, opening onto the Black Sea in Romania, to the source of the river in the Black Forest of southern Germany, moving along the way through the Histria (Sinoe) archaeological site, through Novi Sad in Serbia, Vukovar in Croatia, Budapest, Dunaföldvár, and Dunaújváros in Hungary, and Vienna and the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in Austria. Also featured are the Walhalla temple near Regensburg, the Befreiungshalle at Kelheim, the tomb of Agnes Bernauer, and the castle at Sigmaringen to which Marshal Pétain fled in 1945.
Notable places from Heidegger's own life which feature in the film include his birthplace in Meßkirch, his hut at Todtnauberg, and the lecture theatre at Freiburg University where he delivered his infamous Rectoratsrede (rectorial address).
Eventually the film arrives at Donaueschingen, and at the Breg and the Brigach, the two tributaries whose confluence marks the point at which the river becomes known as the Danube. The film then travels upstream along the Breg, past Vöhrenbach and Furtwangen, in search of the "true" mountain source of the Danube.
The Ister is divided into five chapters, plus a prologue and epilogue:
- Prologue. The myth of Prometheus, or The birth of technics. Bernard Stiegler tells the myth of Prometheus.
- Chapter 1. Now come fire! "In which the philosopher Bernard Stiegler conjugates technology and time, and guides us from the mouth of the Danube to the city of Vukovar in Croatia."
- Chapter 2. Here we wish to build. "In which the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy takes up the question of politics and guides us through the Republic of Hungary."
- Chapter 3. When the trial has passed. "In which philosopher Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe conducts us from the technopolis of Vienna to the depths of the concentration camp at Mauthausen, confronting Heidegger's most provocative statement concerning technology."
- Chapter 4. The rock has need of cuts. "In which philosopher Bernard Stiegler returns to guide us deeper into the questions of mortality and history, as we emerge from Mauthausen to the Hall of Liberation in Germany."
- Chapter 5. What that river does, no-one knows. "In which the German artist and director Hans-Jürgen Syberberg guides us through the upper Danube, to the source of the river and beyond."
- Epilogue. Heidegger reads Hölderlin. Heidegger reads Hölderlin's hymn, "Der Ister."
Three excerpts from classical works feature in the film:
- Anton Bruckner, Symphony No. 4 in E-flat major, first movement.
- Richard Wagner, "Siegfried's Funeral March," from Götterdämmerung, Act 3.
- Franz Schubert, Impromptu D. 899 (Op. 90), No. 1 in C minor.
Premiere and awards
The Ister premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam on 23 January 2004. It has won two awards:
- The Prix du Groupement National des Cinémas de Recherche (GNCR) at the Festival International du Documentaire de Marseille (August 2004).
- The Prix de l’AQCC (Association Québécoise des Critiques/Quebec Association of Film Critics) at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in Montreal (October 2004).
- Coloring Outside the Lines, by Michael Atkinson
- The Ister: Between the Documentary and Heidegger’s Lecture Course Politics, Geographies, and Rivers, by Babette Babich
- A River Runs Through It, by Daniel Birnbaum
- Draggin' the River, by Carloss James Chamberlin
- The Ister, by Chris Chang, Film Comment, vol. 46, no. 1 (Jan./Feb. 2010), p. 82.
- Killing the Gatekeeper, by Matthew Clayfield
- The Duck and the Philosopher: Rhythms of Editing and Thinking between Bernard Stiegler and The Ister, by Patrick Crogan
- The Ister: Cinema's Interruption, by Linda Daley
- The Ister, by Cheryl Danieri-Ratcliffe
- The Ister, by Tom Dawson
- Heidegger, Technology and Time: Review of the Film The Ister, by Matthew Del Nevo
- "The Ister," reviewed by Roy Elveton, German Studies Review 29 (2006): 480–481.
- The Ister, by Gareth Evans
- The Ister: Search for the Source, by Hamish Ford
- The Ister, by Scott Foundas
- The Ister, by Philip French
- Flow of Rich Philosophy, by Philippa Hawker
- The Ister, by Philippa Hawker
- The Ister, by Eric Henderson
- Mystic River, by J. Hoberman
- Philosophers on Celluloid: Sartre, Beauvoir, Heidegger, and the French Heideggerians, by Jonathan Judaken
- Time and Tide (and Torrents of Discourse), by Peter Kemp
- Incisions on the Rock, by Adam Kirsch
- The Nonbiodegradable, by Dragan Kujundzic
- A Journey Up the Danube, Philosophy Included, by Nathan Lee
- The Ister, by Adrian Martin
- The Ister, by John McMurtrie
- Time and the River (and Heidegger), by Peter Monaghan
- The Ister, by Deborah Nichols
- From Scardanelli to Orfée, by Scott Nygren
- L’homme sans qualités, by Gaël Pasquier (in French)
- The Camera in the Water Closet, by Dominic Pettman
- The Ister, by Jonathan Rosenbaum
- The Ister, by Jamie Russell
- Against the Stream: Remarks on the Film The Ister, by Galili Shahar
- The Ister, by Michael Sicinski
- In Search of Heidegger, by Ruth Starkman
- The Ister, by James van Maanen
- “He Appears, However, Almost to Go Backwards”: Impossibly Short Notes on The Ister, by Mike Wood