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Regular or Super——Views on Mies van der Rohe

by Joseph Hillel and Patrick Demers, Directors
Deckert Distribution, Leipzig, Germany, 2004
DV Cam, 16 mm, 35 mm, Digital Beta, 56 min., col., closed captioned
Sales: Video-DVD, $390; rental: Video, $100
Distributor’s website: http://www.deckert-distribution.com/films/deckert_192.htm

Reviewed by Andrea Dahlberg


This film has won an abundance of awards and mentions at various national and international film festivals: Best Photography, 2005 Rome Documentary Festival; 2005 Chicago International Documentary Festival; Critics Choice, Chicago Tribune (Nov. 2004); Best Canadian Film, 2004 International Festival of Films on Art (Montreal); Special Mention, Best Urban Documentary, 2004 Barcelona DocFest; 2004 Vancouver Film Festival.

Its modest sub-title——Views on Mies van der Rohe——accurately describes its content. The film depicts the views of architectural historians, architects (including Rem Koolhaas), academics, Mies van der Rohe's grandson, and people who live, work, and use buildings he designed. There is no claim that these views are typical or representative in any way. Very little information is given about van der Rohe's life and very few of his buildings are shown. The views vary considerably, with a few providing real insights into the work while others——and especially those provided by Koolhaas in a rushed interview——are barely intelligible and leave the viewer to try to make some sense of what is said. A significant part of the film centers on a gas station van der Rohe designed near Montreal in Canada (hence the title of the film). In all, the film seems partial and to consist of whatever aspects of van der Rohe's work were readily available to the filmmakers. The overall view one forms of the film is that while it is well made, the content was largely chosen by financial and other purely practical dictates available at the time.

All low budget films are subject to these constraints, but the challenge for the filmmaker is to turn them into advantages. This film is only partly successful in this regard. Its strengths lie in its pacing, music, and camera work. But as a film about one of the greatest architects of the twentieth century, it does little more than acknowledge the well-known fact of his genius.



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