Rotterdam Films

Rijneke & van Leeuwaarden

Bruggen

Dirk Rijneke

info

On 31 October 1927 the Netherlands Railways opened a new permanent cross-river connection across the Koningshaven in Rotterdam. The lift bridge was the life work of its designer P. Joosting, a civil engineer. The principle behind this type of bridge had been developed in the latter part of the nineteenth century in the United States and the Soviet Union. The flooring of the bridge, between the two nearly seventy meters high towers, is liftable. The two concrete blocks in the towers, called the counterweight, each contain half of the weight of the flooring. Forming the north-south railway connection, the bridge is an essential link in international railway traffic.

At the moment of its inauguration, De Hef (‘the lift’ in popular parlance) was a symbol of progress technologically, while at the same time its form and dynamics developed into a token of modern aesthetics. Artists coming from different artistic trends sang the praise of the bridge. Those artists who propagated a new vision at the beginning of the twentieth century, saw themselves as an avant-garde, the artistic vanguard of a new society. The atmosphere of optimism, which was the result of the rapid development of science and technology led the futurists to believe in the ‘new man’. They were expecting a novel society to evolve, which would enable man to explore his possibilities maximally, aided by the results of technology and science. For both the futurists and the constructivists the machine, with its rhythmicality, artificial vigour and unambi- guous beauty, was the ultimate symbol of the new era. For artists such as El Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy and le Corbusier, beauty was to become the logic result of function, material and proportion.

In 1927 a group of Dutch artists including writer Menno ter Braak, Joris Ivens (then a junior manager in his father’s company), painter Charley Toorop and writer/journalist Henrik Scholten founded the Dutch Film League, introducing the work of avant-garde film makers like Walter Ruttmann, Germaine Dulac, Dziga Vertov, Sergej Eisenstein and Hans Richter in the Netherlands. On the advice of architect and Film League member Syboldt van Ravesteyn, Joris Ivens shot his very first film, featuring the lifting bridge across the Koningshaven: DE BRUG (the bridge). Entirely in the spirit of those days, Ivens, who had been strongly influenced by the German and French avant-gardist movements, sang the praises of this wonder of modern technology. Ivens focused on the mechanical movements and the rhythm of the bridge, thereby succeeding in giving it a dynamics of its own, originating in the way the film was edited. DE BRUG reflected the new, the modern, vigour and beauty. The film not only started the career of a renowned film maker, but also established the legend of the bridge.

Some sixty years later ‘De Hef’ stills fulfils its role in international rail and water traffic. However, the intensity of present-day transport, which has increased greatly over the past years, and the rapid changes in technology have reduced the bridge across the Koningshaven to being an obstacle. After the completion of an ambitious railway tunnel the Hebrug ceased to function. The ‘outdated’ visible mechanics of steam trains and the lifting bridge are replaced by the unseen power of computer controlled high velocity trains, taking the traveller through a nondescript underground no-man’s land to the new city centre. Sixty years later ‘De Hef’ is no longer synonymous with dynamics, modernism and progress. Still, as a ‘grand old lady’ it radiates a certain power and beauty. In its strongly changed surroundings, facing death, the bridge deserves to be the subject of a film; no longer as a symbol of progress, but rather as a static, a stately monument of the past, conflicting with the seemingly unrestrained technological innovations in the present fin de siècle. Ivens filmed the bridge in black and white, silent, using a 35 mm Kinamo handcamera. Shot in colour on high quality 35 mm wide screen stock and making use of the distinctive sounds of ‘De Hef’ itself, this filmproject is not only a tribute to an industrial monument in an age of high tech, but also a tribute to Ivens’ THE BRIDGE and a reflection of hundred odd years of technological and artistic develop- ments in cinematography.

credits

35 mm, 13 min., colour

Director: Dirk Rijneke

Production: Rotterdam Films

Camera: Dirk Rijneke

Music: Zbigniew Preisner

Festivals: International Première: Locarno (Piazza Grande), Rotterdam, Bilbao, Valladolid, Rome, Gent, Aachen, Barcelona, Kiev, Toronto, Athens, Istanbul, Madrid, Ankara, Calcutta, New Delhi, Torino, Moskow

Sales: Brussels Ave (sold to 40 territories)