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Master Plečnik

This year marks the 145th anniversary of the birth of the renowned Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik and the 60th anniversary of his death, which is why 2017 was declared as the Plečnik Year. Following Plečnik's death, a number of films were shot both in Slovenia and in the Czech Republic, celebrating the architect's life and work. Slovenian Film Archives (SFA) takes special pride in authentic film material and documentaries that depict Plečnik and his achievement and were shot during his lifetime. For this month’s archivalia we chose the artistic sound film Mojster Plečnik (Master Plečnik), directed in 1952 by Mirko Grobler to mark the famous architect’s 80th birthday.

Excerpt from the film.

Master Jože Plečnik. | Author Arhiv Republike Slovenije

This year marks the 145th anniversary of the birth of the renowned Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik and the 60th anniversary of his death, which is why 2017 was declared as the Plečnik Year. On March 13, short documentaries and films about Plečnik and his life were screened during our regular event Večeri SFA (Evenings of the Slovenian Film Archives), held at the Slovenian Cinematheque. Also screened at the event were two short films set in Plečnik's Ljubljana and directed by Matjaž Klopčič.

Following Plečnik's death, a number of films were shot both in Slovenia and in the Czech Republic, celebrating the architect's life and work. Slovenian Film Archives (SFA) at the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia takes special pride in authentic film material and documentaries that depict Plečnik’s achievement and were shot during his lifetime. The earliest of such films is the 1940 film Otoritev Žal v Ljubljani (Unveiling of Žale Cemetery in Ljubljana), which portrays one of the most celebrated of Plečnik's architectural achievements. It is interesting also because it was made by Mario Foerster, the first Slovenian university trained film director.

After World War II, Plečnik was already a well-known, well-established and respected architect. In the early 1950s, to celebrate his 80th birthday, a number of original film material was shot, depicting him in his life and work environment. One of such films that we keep is titled Arhitekt Jože Plečnik promocija (Architect Jože Plečnik Promotion). The film was shot by Ivan Marinček in 1952, when Plečnik received the honorary doctorate in architecture from the Ljubljana Faculty of Engineering.

The second film clip titled Fragmenti dokumentarnega filma o Jožetu Plečniku 1950-1951 (Fragments from Documentary on Jože Plečnik 1950-1951) was shot by Mile De Gleria. Having decided that this month's archivalia should be a film that commemorates Plečnik's work and the anniversary of his birth, we were a day after our screening in the Slovenian Cinematheque unexpectedly visited by Ljubo Struna, doyen of Slovenian film and the winner of Metod Badjura Award, who provided the following record:

“A few years before Plečnik died, it was around 1955, cameraman Mile De Gleria and I decided to secretly film him. It was a well-known fact that Plečnik did not like to be photographed or filmed. We knew that he visited the Faculty of Architecture in Ljubljana every day. We observed him for a couple of days, taking notes of whether and when he was leaving his house. I borrowed a tricycle and we waited for the right moment. We were positioned in the Karunova Street, near the church in Trnovo. I was sitting on my tricycle, while my cameraman De Gleria was hiding in a cardboard box that was placed at the front of the tricycle. We caught on camera the master’s departure from his house and his stroll down the pavement along the Trnovo church in the direction of the Faculty of Architecture. Our filming was a success and De Gleria kept the footage in his personal archive.”

Mr. Struna asked if we by any chance kept this footage. We checked the descriptions of the films in our film collection. Based on the description of one film that depicts Trnovo with the church, the house of the architect Jože Plečnik, the Križanke complex with Zois Pyramid and St. James’s bridge and church, the moment when Plečnik descends the stairs, the National and University Library with details, the moment when Plečnik is receiving his award and thanking the fellows of the academy, his stroll among the houses of Trnovo and across the bridge over Gradaščica river, Trnovo covered with snow etc. we came to the conclusion that this was the film that we were discussing. The footage was probably transferred by De Gleria’s wife Vida De Gleria to the Museum of Architecture, which in 2010 transferred it to the Slovenian Film Archive.

In 1957, another film titled Pogreb akademika Jožeta Plečnika (The Funeral of the Academician Jože Plečnik) was shot by an unknown filmmaker. It shows the guard of honor standing next to a catafalque and the funeral itself, which was conducted by the Ljubljana Bishop Anton Vovk and took place at Žale Cemetery in Ljubljana.

All of the above mentioned film clips are silent.

For this month’s archivalia we chose the artistic sound film Mojster Plečnik (Master Plečnik), directed in 1952 by Mirko Grobler to mark the famous architect’s 80th birthday. In addition to Plečnik’s architectural achievements in Ljubljana, Vienna and Prague, the film also captures Jože Plečnik taking a walk and sitting down in his cabinet at the faculty, and shows his house in Trnovo. It was filmed by Rudi Vaupotič and Anton Smeh and the footage is noticeably different than in the previously mentioned films. The film also portrays the work of a stonecutter, one of the craftsmen that were greatly respected by Plečnik, who always chose them to work on the decorations on the exterior and interior of his buildings.

Lojz Tršan