I am being accused that I don’t have enough new, original content on my blog as of late. Guilty. (And involved with some new projects, but it’s a cheap excuse). In an effort to remedy that, here’s something fresh and quirky.
I recently conducted a Skype interview with Felix Pfeifle, the star of a new documentary Felix Austria! that premiered at Hot Docs. It was published on Travel Culture Mag, click the link for the full read.
Following here are some excerpts.
Not all of us go looking for something very specific when we travel, or feel a strong pull of something as tangible as historical sensibility by catching the last thread of imperial history.
Felix Pfeifle, the star of a new documentary Felix Austria! is said to have felt a need to find something that was not in his surroundings, which is usually a reason to set off on a journey.
All journeys are different, and are often tied to an urge to fulfill something else, more than merely traversing geographical territories or cultures, something intrinsic, more than experiencing and being exposed to different realities across the world.
A project that took the better part of 8 years of writing, filming and now promoting, defined not only this period of his life, but also something that empowered his direction due to the discoveries and people encountered along the way. Namely, he felt a call to trace the lineage of Austria’s Hapsburg monarchy. How about that for a calling? In the process, some ordinary paths were cast aside in favour of discovering and revealing to the public the richness of history, and aspiring to ask questions that reveal new personal directions.
“Not an objective but a nuance of the journey is the comfort of embracing a passion, – he says – abiding and going to its centre and being at ease with that”.
This is a great reminder to the rest of us to examine the things that we are searching for or the directions that we are taking, choosing something substantial, something personal in the history.
More so, realizing that quests do continue and, in the process, fuel our personal development.
One of my favourite authors, Momo Kapor, a Serbian, wrote:
“Throughout our lives we live in two different places –
one in which we are confined to,
the other which is our longing and where we believe we should be.”
which goes hand-in-hand with what Felix said in the film about Vienna, “the place where his soul resides”. I was curious to know whether he saw himself as being destined to live in fin-de-siecle Vienna, and how does that affect your everyday life in New York, where he currently lives.
He replied that he was not seeking to regurgitate and relive the past, just to touch it, work with it and embrace what is left. This, he says, does not imply some sort of notion of a destiny to have lived that in the past life, or to live it in some nostalgic way.
And isn’t that a positive perspective?
Perpetual travellers often have a list of places where they feel more ‘at home’, where they feel they belong, and another list where they feel social constraints, or a disassociation with the spirit of the place. For the longest time I thought that’s normal, but now I know it’s about finding peace at the time in which you exist. It’s intrinsic, not geographical.
Although he says that he felt that he could have existed more easily in another life, another era, he doesn’t think about it that way. He says he does not confuse embracing another era with needing to exist in that era. He wouldn’t seek to alter the society around himself to fit it into his desires, and wouldn’t seek a fantasy of a bygone era to fit into a contemporary lens.
Seeing things in all prisms bouncing off each other, knowing that there was a richness of this way of seeing the world, and taking exception to quite conservative social values of the times, Felix plunged into research, seeing a unique opportunity to create a journey. This is also why he doesn’t call himself a historian, just someone who is passionate about history. And once he decided to go on a journey of this kind, he knew he will go to the core of things.
So, does he journey to the past? Or the future? His reply, and an advice at once, is a reminder of the relevance of history: not to journey into the past, but journey to find the threads in the past that resonate with us now, and will continue to do so in the future.
Well.. what are you waiting for?