Dans la ville blanche

In the White City | In der weißen Stadt
Late last summer someone said to me: “Make a film in Portugal.” I once watched the boats sailing up the Tajo estuary and turning in their anchors with the movement of the tides. It left quite an impression on me and reminded me of an age long-forgotten ... and of the mysteries of Lisbon's old town. I mused a while and then watched a film on TV starring Bruno Ganz. I decided to have him sail up the Tajo in one of those boats. And between the blanks in my memory I visualised Rosa, who worked in a hotel bar near the harbour, and Elisa, the woman who lived by the Rhine. I didn't write a script, I simply let some visions of a distant past and another, more recent past trickle through my mind: a few memories, a few images, and what one refers to as “strong emotions”. Had I written a script, I would have added a level of meaning [...]. And this time I didn't want it to have any meaning, I only wanted a subject. Then I drove back to Lisbon, a stranger here and all alone. Once there, I traced Paul's footsteps (Paul is the hero's name; my heroes are always called Paul or Pierre …). Then we began shooting, from one day to the next… on the first day of shooting, we discovered a clock in the bar where Rosa worked. The hands moved in the wrong direction, backwards. [...] Because of this clock, Paul decides to blank out everything: both around him and in his head. I am free, he says; and time is suspended. […] And us? We shoot from one day to the next. And on Sunday I film the streets on super-8. These pictures look as if I had opened a 35mm film with a scalpel in order to look inside. And inside Paul's head too.

Alain Tanner

Translated from: Dokumentation der 33. Internationalen Filmfestspiele Berlin 1983

New Print
by Alain Tanner
with Bruno Ganz, Teresa Madruga, Julia Vonderlinn
Switzerland / Portugal 1982/83 108’