Summer evenings are to be savoured, and what better way to do this than by stepping back in time and taking in a silent film accompanied by live music outside under a leafy canopy? Having done so myself, I can only urge you to seize the opportunity when the WANDERKINO makes its next stops locally in Leipzig and Markkleeberg in September.
Perhaps you recently spotted Tobias Rank’s vintage 1969 Magirus Deutz fire engine atop the affectionately named “Warze” or “wart” close to the Sachsenbrücke in the Clara-Zetkin-Park? There was no fire, fortunately, but from Tuesday 13 to Friday 16 June the red truck that serves as a mobile cinema brought a variety of silent films to budding filmgoers. The films, mostly from the 1920s, were projected using historical 16mm film and accompanied by live musicians playing the piano, saxophone, bass clarinet and violin.
The atmosphere was buzzing on the Friday evening in mid-June when I went along.
The idyllic hilltop setting had attracted a full house, set to enjoy the line-up of three comedy films screening from 9:30 pm and accompanied by Rank on the keyboard. We were in for a treat!
The evening began with “The Cure” (“Die Kur,” 1917) written, directed and starring the iconic Charlie Chaplin as an alcoholic. Attending a therapeutic spa to dry out, Chaplin arrives with a suitcase full of alcohol, which is emptied into a well, from which various people then drink. This, along with the funny man’s comical encounters with a big man with a bandaged foot who attempts to give him a Turkish massage and a beautiful young woman he falls for make for an entertaining time.
Next up was the 1927 “With love and hisses” (“Müde Helden”), a Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy film about a film about bumbling soldier Privat Hope (Laurel) who puts his superior, General Bustle (Hardy) through the wringer during a soldiers’ field camp. After a long hike through the hot countryside, the group of soldiers find a lake where they go swimming. Private Hope is assigned to look after the soldiers’ uniforms, but the heat is too much and after a while, he abandons his duty and joins the others in the lake.
Meanwhile, a cigarette casually tossed away ignites the pile of clothing, and the soldiers have no choice but to walk half-naked back to the camp. Along the way, they pick up a billboard and modestly shuffle along behind it. Comically they are pursued first by a skunk and then by a swarm of bees, which ultimately results in swollen bottoms all round!
The third and final film of the evening was the 1922 “Grandma’s Boy” (“Groβmutters Liebling”) by Harold Lloyd.
It tells the story of a boy who is afraid pretty much of his own shadow. To combat this, his rather braver grandmother gives him a magic charm (actually, just the handle of an umbrella). It gives her grandson the courage to pursue and capture a town criminal who has robbed a jewellery store, and to go after the girl he adores. The moral of the story is that believing in something—best of all yourself—can give you strength and work wonders!
Glancing around, the audience was clearly engrossed in the films and their enthusiasm was apparent by the regular guffaws of laughter. The improvised piano music beautifully matched what was happening on the screen, the narrative and emotion were cleverly conveyed visually and language was obviously no barrier!
Catch the WANDERKINO in September
The WANDERKINO has been on the road since 1999 making stops mainly throughout Europe. See the website for the full 2023 programme. The mobile cinema comes to the Naturbad Nordost, Leipzig on 8 September and the Agra Messepark, Markkleeberg on 9 September. The June screenings referred to began at 9:30 pm and cost €15 or €10 (reduced rate).