Venice: the last days of a city

Bálint Kádár

Film: The Venice syndrome (Andreas Pichler, 2012, 80’)
Sunday 9 March – 17:30

Venice is a strong brand today, a must-see destination, and big business. It is a must see place, and all are coming to see it. All those tourists rarely think about how a city of 200,000 inhabitants in its glory days can support 21 million visitors each year. It cannot. Today we reached the moment when the number of tourists arriving to Venice each day outnumbers the 58,000 locals still resident here. The danger is evident, if one recognizes that a city is not merely the aggregate of all the buildings, statues, streets and canals, but the community of people creating, developing and maintaining these spaces and artefacts. That is, the culture of the city. The film visits some of the inhabitants of the city, to show what have remained of the culture of Venice, how real urban life becomes impossible under the pressure of mass-tourism. The creator is consumed by its magnificent creation.

Tourists do not have a leading role in the movie of Andreas Pichler. We can have a precious insiders look into the real Venice, to be feared that it will be a last one. The main discourses are about the closing of the central post office, the difficult situation of the famous Rialto fish market, the moving of parts of medical care to the mainland, and of the difficulties to buy milk in the neighbourhood. Some organize demonstrations, some sign petitions, but all faces carry some kind of resigned sadness. To all these people the “terraferma” – mainland is alien world, but they cannot resist the high rents and ceasing services. A dissolving community leaves behind only a desert of souvenir shops and holiday apartments. The scale of mass-tourism compared to the possibilities of locals correlates well to the scale of the luxury cruiser ships invading the views of the Venetian palaces.

The old gondolier, the removal man with his boat, the tourist guide or the musicians rented for serenades all watch with incomprehension the take-away tourists, and the mere headway of superficiality and mass consumption in this industry – the only one left. The acclaimed writer and landscape architect Trudy Sammartini cries out a quiet fulmination: “Barbarians”! According to present tendencies the last inhabitant will leave Venice in 2030: the thousand year old culture will then fall in the hands of barbarians definitively.

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