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Jane Enkin Peview's the Film 'Mendelsohn’s Incessant Visions -THE MORLEY BLANKSTEIN ARCHITECTURAL FILM SERIES JUNE 5 AT RADY JCC

Mendelsohn’s Incessant Visions

Chezionot bilti poskim

Germany/Israel, German, Hebrew with English subtitles, Director: Duki Dror, 71 minutes

By Jane Enkin for the Winnipeg Jewish Review

Jane Enkin Music and Story at

Mendelsohn’s Incessant Visions is the debut film in the Morley Blankstein Architectural Film Series presented by the Rady JCC and the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation.  Winnipeg International  Jewish Film Festival. Morley Blankstein was a well-known architect, community leader and philanthropist.

June 5, 7 pm: Guest Speaker: Brent Bellamy, Senior Design Architect, Number Ten Architectural Group, Columnist, Winnipeg Free Press

Mendelsohn’s Incessant Visions is a documentary that explores the ways the past is experienced today.  The central story is that of the innovative and influential German architect, Erich Mendelsohn, and his wife Louise, a cellist and prominent member of the German arts scene, who had a great role in shaping his career.

Mendelsohn’s vision, of monumental buildings with the curving forms of sand dunes and seashells, began with tiny drawings on bits of paper he sent to 16 year-old Louise when he was a soldier in battle in WWI. Louise kept every drawing, letter and photograph from their long relationship, and voice overs include excerpts from their letters and her memoir. The film follows the couple chronologically, from their early life together in Berlin, to their flight to Amsterdam in response to antisemitic laws in 1933, to a happy creative period in British-mandate Palestine, and finally to the US.  Asked by a friend where he was headed in 1933, Mendelsohn took a pencil from his pocket, held it up and said, “Look, I just transferred my office.”

Like a good fiction film, this documentary is filled with fascinating small characters, including archivists, architects, and others involved with Mendelsohn’s work. Brief encounters with passers-by are tucked into the film as well, often just for fun, and the film-makers themselves come across as charming, and perhaps a bit obsessive. The professionals are filmed in their workplaces or in beautiful locations, and they are really good storytellers, caught up in the narrative.

With the guidance of these experts, we see more and more of Mendelsohn’s extensive surviving legacy.  Some buildings now function as museums, others have been repurposed.  Buildings that were lost during the war or replaced by urban renewal projects are preserved in drawings and in Mendelsohn’s own exquisite photography.

And like many fiction films, this documentary includes some great cameos. Chaim Weizmann, President of the Zionist Organization, brought Mendelsohn to Palestine, where he was moved and influenced by the landscape and the people: “Something about the desert intoxicated him.”  In his response to the local environment, Mendelsohn reflected the approach of the American architect he admired and befriended, Frank Lloyd Wright. Mendelsohn felt they were both “bewitched by space.” And the film is filled with the lovely presence of Albert Einstein.  When Louise heard that Einstein needed an observatory, she showed him drawings by the then unknown young architect.  Einstein commissioned the building, now known as the Einstein Tower.  Mendelsohn’s observatory, beautiful and made with innovative technology, was also very effective.  When Einstein won the Nobel prize, Mendelsohn became Germany’s hottest new architect.

Throughout his busy, successful and influential career, Mendelsohn remained rooted in his creativity. For him, most important was the sketch, which is “concentrated reality. All the rest is work.” 

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