12 February, 2012

AJFF: "Incessant Visions" (*****)

Filmmaker Duki Dror recreates Mendelsohn's sketches throughout the film.
Equal parts 'film nerd' and 'architecture nerd,' I was always going to love this film. I already counted myself as a fan even before having seen it. A film about a deservedly renowned architect doesn't get released without catching my attention. (Can "How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?" please get released soon?)

What makes "Incessant Visions" so wonderful is that it's not just a film about Erich Mendelsohn's work, it's about his life, his marriage and his passion. The film beautifully renders a picture of the icon's brilliance and his personality. This remarkable documentary receives my first five-star review.

Mendelsohn was one of the foremost expressionist architects of his day. Nearly all of his sketches and a few of the designs that were brought to fruition would have fit right into any film from the German expressionist movement. Popular film class screener "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" is aptly referenced to provide a bit of context for Mendelsohn's early work. We also learn of his relationship with filmmaker Fritz Lang and his involvement with Lang's classic film, "Metropolis."

The audience quickly gets acquainted with the architect and his designs through a smoothly edited blend of interviews, sketches and photographs, as well as both new and archive footage. Just as we get to know Mendelsohn's work, we also get to know the man.

While his architecture remains how we know him best today, the film's focus rests on the letters between him and his wife, Louise. The narration is a skillful blend of the letters read from both Erich and Louise's perspective as well as a dialogue between two voices; one belonging to a moderator, the other speaking as Louise. Allowing the audience to hear these letters equips the film with a unique emotional weight as we become involved in the lives and marriage of our central characters.

Having already seen so much happen to Erich and Louise, by the time World War II begins, we are nearly caught off guard by the new turn of events. A nomadic journey starts as they flee to then-Palestine and then voyage to America, their final home. Though fleeing Germany saved his life, Germany turned their back on Mendelsohn when he served as a consultant for the United States government concerning firebombing tactics in Berlin. Though his complicated relationship with Germany kept them from championing him as one of their most important architects and many of his buildings were lost in the war, Mendelsohn's name deserves more recognition.

"Incessant Visions" is a triumph for Mendelsohn and his legacy, as well as filmmaker, Duki Dror.

5 out of 5 stars.

This film screens Tuesday, February 14th at Lefont Sandy Springs. Get your tickets here.


  1. Lovely review! You capture the essence of the film and communicate it beautifully! As the voice of Louise, it is always nice to know that the film's message is having an impact on its audiences!

    Thank you!
    Debbie Irwin

  2. Are you serious? "Germany turned its back on Mendelsohn?"

    Mendelsohn aided and abetted in the incineration of 600,000 German civilians and the destruction of 131 German cities.

    He should have been hauled before a Nuremberg tribunal on charges of crimes against humanity.

    but hey, it's okay if you're Jewish.