NYJFF ’12: Incessant Visions
(trailer here), a documentary survey of the architect’s life and work, based on Mendelsohn’s collected correspondence and his wife’s memoir, screens during the 2012 New York Film Festival.
Like many Jewish Germans, the Polish-born Mendelsohn proudly served his country in WWI, frequently sending letters and drawings home to his wife Louise. A man resolutely of the left, Mendelsohn maintained his ideological leanings even when his wife’s affair with Communist poet Ernst Toller nearly scuttled their marriage. After the reception of his Einstein Tower observatory, Mendelsohn became one of the most successful and stylistically identifiable architects in Germany. He would be closely identified with the department stores he designed for Schocken, only one of which survives today.
A friendly admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright, Mendelsohn’s work could be considered a link between the American’s distinctive modernism and the more austere International Style of Mies van der Rohe. Featuring dramatically curved prows, set-back terraces, and circular interior staircases, his work looks sleekly modern, but comfortably livable.
Dror captures the personality of the buildings quite well, often finding a hospitable host to provide a tour for viewers. It helps that Mendelsohn’s architecture is considerably more photogenic than that of his International colleagues. Incessant sufficiently covers biographical matters as well, but never obsesses over the couple’s infidelities and politics. As a result, the documentary moves along quite briskly, keeping its focus where it should be.