With Europe about to boil over into war, two urbane young ladies decide to drive from their home in Switzerland to India.
Ella Maillart and Annemarie Schwarzenbach are Switzerland’s best kept travel secret. Back in spring 1939, Europe was a volatile cauldron of political madness and they sensed that sanity could be found on the road rather than in the hurly-burly of modern life. In their painfully normal car they set off for India and hoped to find beauty and sanity. With Schwarzenbach addicted to morphine they also sought a road-trip detox. Thankfully they filmed the whole thing. A ferry across the Black Sea, Turkey and they’re off: Iran, Afghanistan and India (no Pakistan back then) fall before their lens. Maillart had left Switzerland with pen poised and it is her letters home that form much of the soundtrack of this masterpiece. Students of adventure travel cinema will realise that their footage was never meant to be a ‘film’ as we moderns understand it. Instead, their shots have a dreamy stream of consciousness which is all at once refreshing and alarming.
This footage is a big deal. Seriously, don’t miss this one…
1939 & 2015 • Directed by Antonio Bigini & Marianne Lewinsky • Colour 16mm