DE BRUG (1928) THE BRIDGE / LE PONT
(11 min, b/w, silent, 35 mm)
This landmark abstract study of a massive iron bridge in Rotterdam, with its stark black & white montages and fluid camera, was described in the British journal CLOSEUP (1928) as a “pure visual symphony”.
REGEN (1929) RAIN / LA PLUIE (12 min, b/w, silent, 35 mm) Ivens’ first abstract film is a beautiful and evocative portrait of his native city of Amsterdam. Together with THE BRIDGE, these two early films established Ivens’ international reputation as a visual poet of the cinema.
PHILIPS RADIO (1931) PHILIPS RADIO / SYMPHONIE INDUSTRIELLE (36 min, b/w, sound, 35 mm) The first Dutch sound film, PHILIPS RADIO was made as a company film for the Eindhoven factory, whichproduced radio sets. Ivens constructed a striking visual symphony from the structures and workers inside the factory space, and simultaneously critiqued the monotony of the workers’ conditions. This social critique scandalized the Philips management at the time. Now a classic of film history for its elegant abstraction and lively editing, PHILLIPS RADIO also created one of the earliest soundtracks, combining music and factory sounds into a kind of industrial symphony
NIEUWE GRONDEN (1933) NEW EARTH / NOUVELLE TERRE (30 min, b/w, sound, 35mm) For this film, Ivens expanded an already impressive sequence of WE ARE BUILDING (1930), about the construction of the Zuiderzee dykes near Amsterdam, which produced abundant new land for farming. NEW EARTH is an eloquent portrayal of the catastrophes subsequently visited upon Dutch workers by the necessary closing of these dykes. The loss of the reclaimed land and the grain it produced, was devastating. Combining dramatic re-enactments, stock footage, and documentary materials with a stirring score by German composer Hanns Eisler, NEW EARTH is a classic of political documentary.
MISÈRE AU BORINAGE (1934) BORINAGE (34 min, b/w, silent, 35 mm) Co-directed with Belgian filmmaker Henri Storck, this film portrays the painful aftermath of the revolutionary 1932 miners’ strike in the Borinage region. Moving away from his earlier poetic style, Ivens structured the film as a social critique and staged several scenes as dramatic reenactments of the strike. Described as having “accusatory aesthetics,” BORINAGE suffered political censorship for many years, but remains an impressive example of Ivens’ early socialist realist style and themes
PESN O GEROJACH (KOMSOMOL) (1932) KOMSOMOL, OR SONG OF HEROES / KOMSOMOL, OU LE CHANT DES HÉROS
(50 min, b/w, sound, 35 mm)
Made as a tribute to young socialist workers and their labor, KOMSOMOL portrays the building of a blast furnace in early 1930s Magnitogorsk, in the Ural Mountains. Using a dramatic opening montage, Ivens focuses on the spirit and idealism of the young USSR and its Communist youth organisation. Again combining documentary footage with re-enactments, and working with composer Hanns Eisler, Ivens managed to create a lyrical portrait of a key moment in Russian history.
POWER AND THE LAND (1941) L’ÉLECTRIFICATION DE LA TERRE
(33 min, b/w, sound, 35 mm)
Commissioned by famous American documentarian Pare Lorentz during the period of the New Deal, POWER AND THE LAND was Ivens’ contribution to that period of rapid growth and modernization. Heading out to the Midwest, he created an engaging portrait of an American family in the post-Depression USA. The film documents the life of this farm family before and after the coming of electrical power to the town. With a musical score by composer Douglas Moore, POWER AND THE LAND became one of the most famous American social documentaries.
INDONESIA CALLING (1946) L’INDONÉSIE APPELLE
(22 min, b/w, sound, 35 mm)
Ivens was appointed Film Commissioner of the Dutch East Indies in 1944 to film the liberation of Indonesia. Upon realizing the Dutch government had no intention of liberation, Ivens resigned. Instead he made this film as a contribution to Indonesian independence. Shot in clandestine circumstances, the film became quite infamous, causing Ivens to lose his Dutch passport for several months.
DAS LIED DER STRÖME (1954) SONG OF THE RIVERS / LE CHANT DES FLEUVES
(90 min. b/w, sound, 35 mm)
Still one of the biggest documentary productions ever made, this film celebrates international workers’ movements along six major rivers: the Volga, Mississippi, Ganges, Nile, Amazon and the Yangtze. Shot in many countries by different film crews, and later edited by Ivens, SONG OF THE RIVERS begins with a lyrical montage of landscapes and laborers and proceeds to glorify labor and modern industrial machinery. With a powerful musical score by Dmitri Shostakovich, lyrics written by Berthold Brecht, and songs performed by Ernst Busch and famous American actor and singer Paul Robeson, the film is an ode to international solidarity.
THE SPANISH EARTH (1937) TERRE D�ESPAGNE
(52 min, b/w, sound, 35 mm)
Considered one of the great war films, THE SPANISH EARTH was produced with funds raised by a group of American intellectuals, including poet Archibald McLeash, writer Lillian Hellman, Ernest Hemingway, and composer Virgil Thomson. Its main theme concerns the defense of the road to Madrid, and the parallel efforts of the village farmers to irrigate fields and produce food for their soldiers. Stunningly shot, often in dangerous battle areas, THE SPANISH EARTH is scored by Virgil Thomson and Mark Blitzstein. On location with Ivens were John Dos Passos, Robert Capa, and Ernest Hemingway, who contributed the powerful commentary. Upon its New York City opening in 1934, THE SPANISH EARTH was declared one of the �most significant and timely�documents of our time.
THE 400 MILLION (1939) LES 400 MILLIONS
(53 min, b/w, sound, 35 mm)
Made by THE SPANISH EARTH team of Ivens, Robert Capa, and editor Helene van Dongen, this is a story of a fight for freedom against the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1938. Opening with a stunning montage of scenes depicting the bombing of coastal cities, the film then takes us on an eloquent tour of the history, landscape, and art of the old China. The last section portrays modernization underway throughout the country, linking its struggle to those in the West for democracy. With amazing footage of Sun Yat Sen, Chang Kai Shek. THE 400 MILLION was described in the NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE as �brilliant� The Hanns Eisler score affords a rich musical fabric for attention.
LA SEINE A RENCONTRÉ PARIS (1957) THE SEINE MEETS PARIS
(32 min, b/w, sound, 35 mm)
Considered one of Ivens’ most beautiful films—LA SEINE portrays Paris life along the river. Strollers, workers, kids, fashion models, and loners populate the quais. Filled with images of everyday life from dawn to dusk, and sparkling with lights at night, LA SEINE is a valentine to Ivens’ second home. The commentary, written by poet Jacques Prévert and spoken by singer Serge Reggiani, compliments every frame.
…A VALPARAISO (1963)
(37 min, b/w and color, sound, 35 mm)
Invited to teach in Chile in 1962, Ivens made a city symphony encompassing Valparaiso’s prestigious history and modern life. He was most fortunate to have filmmaker Chris Marker write the commentary. Working with his students, Ivens sketches daily life on the city’s steep streets, on the funiculars traversing its hills, and in dancehalls and bars, to create one of his most poetic films. Switching suddenly to color, the last section uses a striking montage of historical drawings, paintings, and etchings and finishes with a sequence of kites floating in the clear blue sky.
POUR LE MISTRAL (1965) THE MISTRAL
(30 min, b/w and color, sound, 35 mm and cinemascope)
Ivens’ earliest attempt to film the wind resulted in one of his most lyrical films. He began in black and white, changed midway to color film and then for the last section switched to widescreen cinemascope format. Creating a portrait of the wind sweeping through the spectacular landscape and villages of southern France, LE MISTRAL becomes Ivens’ means of discovering life in Provence.
LE 17ème PARALLÈLE (1968)
THE 17TH PARALLEL
(113 min, b/w, sound, 35 mm)
Made together with Marceline Loridan, THE 17TH PARALLEL was shot over two months while they lived underground with Vietnamese villagers and soldiers at the line dividing North and South Vietnam. Sharing the homes, food, and dangers of their hosts, Ivens and Loridan established an intimate relationship with the community. Focused on scenes of daily life amidst the relentless bombing by American B52’s, the film combines direct and synchronized sound, juxtaposed with longer sequences. Rather than a film about the horrors of war, it is a remarkable portrait of survival against all the odds.
UNE HISTOIRE DE VENT (1988)
A TALE OF THE WIND
(74 min, color, sound, 35 mm)
Ivens’ final film, made with Marceline Loridan, is perhaps his most famous—one in which he turns his camera on his own life and changes in the world around him. Exploring ancient Chinese thinking and metaphysics, and structured by the search for the wind, TALE OF THE WIND offers spectacular montages consisting of dream images and poetic audiovisual passages. The Chinese dragon, mythical representation of the wind, becomes a metaphor also for artistic freedom of imagination. Visually striking and playful as well as dramatic, the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 1988, where Ivens received the Golden Lion for his complete oeuvre.
BORINAGE, 1933 ©Willy Kessels, Joris Ivens Archives/EFJI
A TALE OF THE WIND, 1988 ©CAPI Films/Nicolas Philibert
SONG OF THE RIVERS, 1954 ©Joris Ivens Archives/EFJI
THE 17TH PARALLEL, 1968 ©Marceline Loridan, Joris Ivens Archives/EFJINavigation