„Why travel, I would say, if not to be in touch with the ordinary in non-ordinary ways;
to feel and think ordinarily while experiencing what can later become the extra-ordinary in an ordinary frame”
The following essay offers an analysis of Lisl Ponger’s short documentary Passagen, discussing criteria of visual representation of subtext, with the purpose of involving the viewers virtually on a fictive collage of journeys, on a basis of real experiences and historical frames. This involvement would not happen only on the basis of a pure for entertainment, secure field; on the contrary, the selected images, in concordance with the sustaining narrations, reach for the intellect of the watchers, combating the passivity and arousing self-reflexive thoughts, both regarding individual mind-sets and questioning the purpose of the movie itself. In order to sustain personal observations, a number of scientific writings, from the authors Annete Deeken, Timothy Corrigan, Jennifer Lynn Peterson and Jeffrey Ruoff have been selected, with an emphasis on theories and elements that work as leading paths for further analysis.
Beginning with the title of the movie Passagen (2), the viewer is reminded of Annette Deeken’s remark of pass ways being elements of romance and melancholy (3), defined by their openness and by the wideness of the offered view, that finds it’s resemblance in the normal, day to day way of seeing of the human world, functioning as a Simulacra for „reality“ (4). Following a series of stories, narrated by Adi Sitzmann, Le Dinhan, Katharina Beer, Yamira Vasquez, André Mawazo, Fred Wander, Ana Schey, Maria Förster , N.I., Amra P. and Dr. Ornella Goria, the short documentary functions as an essayistic movie, „represent[ing] subjective experience as epistolary, journalistic, and conversational“ (5).
The predominance of view, offered by the cameras, finds the human figures observing sceneries themselves. The over-the-shoulder perspective does not, however, create a distance between the eye of the watcher from the real dimension and the one from the fictive one; on the contrary. The first one mentioned identifies itself with the latter one, being put in a similar position of watcher. Similar to mise en abyme, in the same time to a meta-movie, it is the beauty or desolation of the world being watched that becomes the main figure, the subject of the short experimental travel-movie. To consider this fact even further, one can notice the absence of an individual main figure, of human protagonists, due to the obscuring of the faces of singular beings, by observing them from the back; in the same time as a result of presenting masses of individuals (6), which become one voluminous character, where personalities are mixed together and the accent is more likely placed on what they represent as a group, rather than as separate subjects, idea which makes a call to Sergej Eisenstein’s theories and practices of montage (7), or Dziga Vertov’s (8), where the eye of the camera records daily activities of the collectivity, realistic filmed, but constructed in the cutting room.
The narration of the movie is being created by a relative chronology, as well as through a repetition of speech and visual representations. While the viewer is imaginarily boarding the ship of „Helios“, on the „3th of September“ on the Danube River, at the end of the 11 minute length film, he finds himself again on board, guided by the setting sun.
Another sustainer of logic in narration would have to be the voices of the invisibles narrators, more precisely, the ones which find themselves in off-screen and are non- diegetic (9), but, in spite of this, function as a spine of the journey.
On the field of construction, the architecture of the production is asymmetric. It is not the locations shown in the singular videos which construct the story, nor the amalgam of different personal experiences related from all around the world. While the camera transports the viewer from Vienna to Moscow and Venice, from the peripheral life of the USA and the crowded streets of China to the wildness of Savannah, the importance must be rather found in the predominant theme, in the activity of travelling and leaving one’s own home, the comfort of the known and the entrance in the Great Unknown, the unexplored. The short movie follows the idea of going everywhere and as far as possible, while, on the same time, the importance of the familiar place, of home and what this term is being associated with.
Analyzing Jennifer Lynn Peterson’s observation of travelogue films in the chapter „A Top of the World in Motion“ of her book Education in the School of Dreams, (10) one can identify in the movie Passagen the unification of a series of individual visual recordings, as moving images which can stand for themselves, containing meaning in their own existence. Further due, director Lisl Ponger makes use of the „collection editing structure“ (11). Moreover, the meaning and logic of the story does not follow a chronological time line, nor does it have to work as a whole in order to produce meaning. One can find „no narrative progression” or the for motion pictures cinema „continuity” (12), but a discontinuity with emphasis on a puzzle-resembling, by movement and thematic „collection“ of „visual anecdotes“ (13), which offer a „sense of flow“ (14), „assumed to resemble a tour“ (15). Peterson also predicts the hybridization of the immobile viewer, the forming of a new type of public, a public to which is conferred mobility through the movement of the cinematic eye and who can take part to a virtual journey around unlimited space and time, from the comfort, secure place of a seat. This development can especially be observed in the shots presenting automobiles, from the ship (the predominant element, present from the opening to the final one), the subway (05:30) the historical, widely used train (04:53), the plane (09:00), the venetian gondola (07:20) and, in my opinion, mostly in the one’s where the human eye identifies itself with the one of an unseen driver in his driver seat (06:50), which confronts himself with the wide opening of a by trees surrounded road, defined by speed and agility.
Of a vital importance is the repetition of the same shots during the development of the film, a reinterpretation that can be observed from a metaphorical point of view as a accentuation of the fictive, ahistorical attribute of time, of both repeatability, predetermination and spontaneity of fate and destiny, of separating roads colliding in the end. The trip and it’s unforeseen „jumps” from one place to another, without any cause- effect rationality (16) resembles dream-like sequences, living outside barriers defined by time and space (17). On the same page, Annette Deeken is making a correlation between travelling and life, where the act of exploring is assimilated as an anthropological symbol for the cycle of born and death, with an orientation toward future (18).
To conclude, Lisl Ponger’s essayistic collection of real filmic takes, records of historical experiences, combined with personal narrated stories of unseen speakers function as a whole, in order to send a message that lies beyond the conscious surface and with the purpose of raising questions regarding the ideology of home, while on the same time analyzing itself as a travelogue, in trying to define the act of leaving and arriving, of exploring and always being on the road, regardless identity, time, space and way of transportation.
 Trinh, Subtitles 195, after Corrigan, Timothy, The Essay Film. From Montaigne, after Marker, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011, S. 104.
 Passagen, Austria 1996, R: Lisl Ponger, 04:47.
 Deeken, Annette, Reisefilme. Ästhetik und Geschichte, Remscheid: Gardez! 2004, S. 223.
 a. a. O., S. 229.
 Corrigan, Timothy, The Essay Film. From Montaigne, S. 105.
 Passagen, 06:00
 Ėjzenštejn, Sergej M., Jenseits der Einstellung : Schriften zur Filmtheorie, Frankfurt am Main : Suhrkamp 2006.
 Der Mann mit der Kamera, R: Dziga Vertov, UdSSR 1929 (Orig. Человек с киноаппаратом).
 Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction8 New York: McGraw – Hill, 2008.
 Peterson, Jennifer Lynn, Education in the School of Dreams, Durham and London: Duke University Press 2013.
 a. a. O., S. 141.
 a. a. O., S. 146.
 a. a. O, S. 149.
 a. a. O., S. 146.
 Ruoff, Jeffrey, Virtual Voyages. Cinema and Travel, Durham and London: Duke University Press 2006, S. 231.
 Deeken, Annette, Reisefilme. Ästhetik und Geschichte, S. 219.
 a. a. O., S. 225.
- Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction8 New York: McGraw – Hill, 2008.
- Corrigan, Timothy, The Essay Film. From Montaigne, after Marker, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011.
- Deeken, Annette, Ästhetik und Geschichte, Remscheid: Gardez! 2004
- Ėjzenštejn, Sergej M., Jenseits der Einstellung : Schriften zur Filmtheorie, Frankfurt am Main : Suhrkamp 2006.
- Peterson, Jennifer Lynn, Education in the School of Dreams, Durham and London: Duke University Press 2013
- Ruoff, Jeffrey, Virtual Voyages. Cinema and Travel, Durham and London: Duke University Press 2006
- Passagen, Austria 1996, R: Lisl Ponger.
- Der Mann mit der Kamera, R: Dziga Vertov, UdSSR 1929 (Orig. Человек с киноаппаратом).