Sunday, December 07, 2008
Quintessentials: Schwardsfahrer (1993)
By Pepe Donquart, Germany, 1993, 9 minutes 59 seconds
Won the 1993 Academy Award for Live Action Short Film
Source: You Tube
Original Blog Posted By Caren Jensen
Schwarzfahrer is a quintessential short film in its ability to confront an uncomfortable topic in a humorous way that is clever with a subtext. Every time I watch this film, I feel awkward for the other passengers as the elderly woman sits on the trolley spewing her bigoted thoughts. While they might disagree, not a single person is willing to disagree aloud except for a few punk kids but their immaturity in responding does nothing to reach the woman. It is not until the “Black Rider” eats her ticket, forcing her off the trolley, does anyone make an impact.
Upon first viewing, I expected the old woman to have a change of heart after the man did something incredibly gracious or respectable, but this is not a film about changing a person’s heart. Instead, Schwarzfahrer is about a changing time where the prejudiced mentalities of old are being replaced with more tolerant mindsets. Old woman and young black man are clear symbols of two generations, at least once removed. He does not have to protest out loud and make a statement through words. Above all, it is a film about silence.
The silence of the passengers while the old woman rambles on is their method of rejecting her beliefs. Their silence after the man eats the ticket is a symbol of their acknowledgement of justice. The old woman’s desire to voice her opinions further distanced her from group. The only person to openly acknowledge the ticket eating was the young boy who then looked to his mother for recognition. The mom’s choice to openly ignore the action served as a lesson to the young boy about the despicable nature of the elderly woman.
Some of the best short comedy films typically act as a long joke building to a punchline. Schwardzfahrer is a clear-cut example of this but dares to be more than just a joke but a statement. While the statement might seem superfluous today in light of recent events, this film still holds something true when put in context of 1993 Germany. However, it is still an enjoyable film to watch today and a prime example of how short films can be more than just entertainment.