When the camera gazes from the deck of the ship towards the endless horizon of the Mediterranean, the picture of a woman who travelled restlessly across the world takes shape. Elisabeth, Empress of Austria, who gradually disappears out of the picture as it were: from the age of 30 she refused to be photographed any more.

S-16mm - 82’ – color – 1:1,85
Dolby stereo - OV german – english version
subtitles: english, french

A film by Ruth Beckermann
Cinematography Nurith Aviv, Sophie Cadet
Sound Bruno Pisek
Editing Gertraud Luschützky
Original music Bruno Pisek, Peter Ponger, Ernst Zettl

Premiere Viennale, October 1999
Cinema release 1.11.1999, Votiv Kino, Vienna
Festivals Berlin, Munich, Karlovy Vary, Jerusalem, Vancouver, Feminale Cologne, Kassel, Lussas, etc.

The mystery of the story behind the (unknown) face has preoccupied Ruth Beckermann for years. What does one believe one sees in a face one does not know? Are all the associations which are communicated by the sight of an unknown simply projection? A photograph which Beckermann presents right at the beginning of the film sets it off in this direction: it testifies to the Sovereign’s will to retain control of her own image, to manipulate and maintain the (youthful) image which the public had of her.
The filmmaker decides to trace Sisi’s travels to the Orient, even though the results were uncertain. With great openness, she embarks on a journey, with the risk of perhaps discovering nothing at all: no clues to the real figure behind the fairytale princess, no answer to the question of how one deals with foreign countries as a privileged traveller. As the first-person narrrator, the film-maker thinks about images: forbidden, official, falsified and genuine, incidentally including in her reflections the problem of the tourist’s view of things, which not even she can escape. Ruth Beckermann’s Orient film intersperses ist questioning of the limits of what can be represented using cinematic means with the great pleasure it takes in ornament and decoration.

STEFAN GRISSEMANN, En Face. Views, Reviews and Interviews: A Passage through Ruth Beckermann‘s Documentary Work

“I will cross the seven seas by ship, a female Flying Dutchman, until one day I drown and am forgotten.”

Commentary by Ruth Beckermann