… their first names are Susana and Ansgar, well known by
the editors of this site due to their films “Still Life“ and „48“, (http://www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/1938/).
This new film by the Portuguese couple demonstrates again how perfectly they know how to combine aesthetics and history with sound that include stories told by now old Austrians „who were sent to stay with host families in Portugal to recuperate after the Second World War“, when they were 6 or 8 or 10 years old.
You don’t get their names but your hear their voices and you are slowly taken into their experience. What they remember from the early post-war journey to the sun. It was for most of them a positive stay in rich homes, where they got close to families and maids and cats and dogs, in houses like palaces unlike the bombed Austria that they had left – there were 5000 who went. Memories for life.
The journey is told from beginning till end after 10 months stay. The boat trip, the arrival where families picked their kids, the language barriers, the joy of being there with a couple of testimonies, that tell another side of the stay. „I was locked up for 10 months“, says a man, who stayed with a priest. But others say „I never felt homesick“, „there was caressing and hugging that I did not know from home“. They wrote letters to home, they were sent after being censored as the letters arriving – astonishing!
Some remember how important religion was for the families, they took part in ceremonies, and one remembers to have met poverty – a barefooted boy who lives in a cave! In contrast to the one, who had met Salazar, who sent 6 pineapples to the kids every year for christmas or new year.
And then the touching Goodbye´s, back to Austria, hard for many of the kids. One tells that when she came home, she spoke only Portuguese and could not recognise her mother.
The film is as excellent as their previous archive based works mentioned above. The two have their very special way of storytelling, where scratched images from chronicles bring witness of the time as does lovely family photos and films from the wealthy families archive. If you can say so – “small” sounds accompany sometimes the images, there is never a direct illustration of the words, except when the Austrian “kids” say that here is my mother, or grandmother, or talk about “the doctor” who always wore a suit even on the beach – the fotos of the girls stay long, you are invited to look at them, “enter them” as Sousa has put it and think your own story or your family´s – for instance on how you looked at that age, and for me as well how my two meter tall uncle from Argentina was also always in an ironed white shirt and perfect suit. Or my father standing on a boat in 1931 going from Buenos Aires to Southampton.
This is what the emotional “Journey to the Sun” does. It broadens out its theme through the montage and brings childhood memories into a historical context that could be of today, where kids are taken away from their roots. In this case they come home to Austria to find themselves and create an identity.
Portugal, 2021,107 mins.