Vadym Jendreyko: The Woman with the 5 Elephants

It’s from start till end beautiful. It is seldom that form and content go so well together. Because the director succeeds to catch the charisma of Swetlana Geier, the translator of Dostoyevsky (and many other big Russian authors) from Russian into German. Her life story, born in Ukraine 1923, living in Freiburg in Germany from the mid 40’es until her death in 2010. Her travel to Ukraine with her granddaughter. And first of all her approach to translation and the works of Dostoyevsky. To language, read this quote from the film:

“My teacher always said: ‘Nose up in the air when you translate.’ That is to say, one doesn’t translate from left to right, following the text, but only after one has made the sentence one’s own. It first has to be internalised, taken to heart. I read a book so often that my eyes ’gouge holes’ in pages. I basically know it by heart. Then the day comes when I suddenly hear the melody of the text.”

The scenes on the first floor of the house, she lives in, are magnificent. She sits with Hannelore Hagen on each side of the table at a window that opens to a view of a tree outside. Hannelore Hagen types what Swetlana Geier dictates. And later comes in – to sit in the chair of Geier – Jürgen Klodt, who knows about language, the musicality of German language. He comes up with suggestions for change to the old lady on the other side of the table, who uses her pencil to make marks in the manuscript that Hannelore Hagen has typed. It’s wonderful. Old-fashioned. Conversations. “You could also use conjunctive!”. It has a calmness of poetic dimensions. The director pays respect to the profession – and her life. We get to know the tragic death of her son, and she speaks so touching about how she was there at his coffin. Her face, her eyes, her way of conveying fascination, you can imagine how good a teacher she must have been. Strength. Wisdom.

No more from me, the film is a must, and it is easy to get hold of it. Click the website (with excellent articles) below to see how to get hold of it.

Germany/Switzerland, 2009, 92 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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