Navigating Australia’s empty spaces

Ross translates geopolitics into film form. Through editing and camera movements he links the wide open spaces of Australia’s countryside with magnified freedom of movement for his family.

Shortly after the postcard views of the Australian city montage (see Abundant space = spare time) the film shifts gears when the Rosses leave the urban centers: An encounter with koala bears suddenly triggers handheld camera movements that make the person behind the camera palpable. Then a camera pan follows Ralph and Renate riding horseback through the landscape where, according to the children (as Colin Ross cites them in his voice-over), “Australia begins for real”. The uninhabited ‘space without people’ is made to seem navigable.

This fits a pattern developed over the entire film. While the Ross family pops up throughout the film, they are given more screen time whenever the film leaves metropolitan centers for less densely populated areas. In those scenes they are also often used as observers standing in for the cinema audiences. In the present clip, point-of-view editing relates the sights of the Blue Mountains to Ralph and Renate watching.

Thus, the Ross family functions as placeholders, both in the sense of continuity editing as suture, the filling of the empty place on the reverse side of the diegetic world, and within a geopolitical reading of Australia’s landscape as ‘empty’, which implies a future of settlements ‘filling’ it.

Joachim Schätz  








Colin Ross. Australien - Indien - Neuguinea - Neuseeland [archive title]
Excerpt from: Colin Ross. Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien! Das Doppelgesicht des Ostens. Germany: Ufa/Ullstein; 1930.

reel 1: 35mm | b&w | sound | 409m | 24 fps | 15’

Master: 0001-01-0926_Australien_ROSS_Colin_XY_Omnimago_2016_PR422HQ_2048x1768_PCM_24fps.mov; 00:01:59,04-0:03:31,16

Clip: 0001-01-0926_Australien_ROSS_Colin_XY_Omnimago_2016_H264-12Mbits-KFauto-CABAC_1440x1080_24fps_IsFormatOf_ProRes422HQ_2048x1768_PCM_24fps_00015904-00033116.mp4


Topic: Volk ohne Raum
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30




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