This journey through central Europe from the old world to the new is a travelogue in time. It splices today with yesterday using film and photos of 100 years ago. We depart from Mostar with the heir to the Habsburg throne on his doomed journey in June 1914 to Sarajevo. We make a round trip from Vienna via places in Hungary, Rumania, Bukovina (part of modern-day Ukraine) and Montenegro before the film brings us back to Vienna, via Trieste, to the beginning of the European catastrophe. The sounds and sights come to us in a no-comment news style, interrupted sporadically by old newspaper reports.
Paul Rosdy takes us to strange and familiar worlds of both yesterday and today. Strange, because of the places that have disappeared from our awareness. Familiar, because the film carries traces of yesterday. And that yesterday seems both close by and in a distant past. Watching these places, we become aware that the new ‘old’ world we are led into is separated from ours by hundred years of immeasurable suffering. The film evokes vague memories of old books’ and ancestors’ tales of vanished empires that were in our vicinity, or, in my case, were on the very ground where I live.
I inhabit the realms of an ex-emperor that inherited parts of the old empire shown in the film, all its troubles included, according to famous historian AP Taylor: “More fortunate than the Habsburgs, Marshal Tito found an “idea”. Only time will show, whether social revolution and economic betterment can appease national conflicts and whether Marxism can do better than Counter-Revolution dynasticism in supplying central Europe with a common loyalty.” Time has shown. Regarding a “common loyalty”-this is not only about Balkans-we are back where we started.
The places we are shown in Rosdy’s film were in the news recently. To be in the news means to be in trouble. My place (Slovenia, ed.) was in the news at the very beginning in 1991, but stayed there for only ten days. I am fortunate. Sarajevo, we know, was a prime news item for four years and has not yet completely disappeared from the limelight. Rumania has been there, too. Ukraine (Bukovina) has been covered by media recently. And is likely to return.
It is no good to be in Rosdy’s film either. I wondered about the criteria used by Rosdy when selecting from among the parts of the old realm. Exoticism? No. The frame story, determining the fate of many peoples, is the journey of the archduke Franz-Ferdinand, and his spouse, of course. Via Trieste.
Who is the next heir to the lacking “common loyalty”? The EU? What will time show this time around? Maybe what is lacking is the idea that national conflicts are to be appeased and not only in Central Europe and Balkans.