The Stars and the Water Carriers (1974)
1h 31min · Documentary, Sport · 1 March 1974
The images from the Tour de France in the television production Eddy Merckx in the Vincinity of a Cup of Coffee may be seen as a small sketch for the fully unfurled epic cycling drama Stars and Watercarriers. The film follows the 1973 Giro d'Italia and in his commentary Leth explains the fascination exerted by the great cycle races: "The most beautiful, most pathetic images cycling can give us involve extreme performances in classic terrain." The action literally emerges on the move and the riders readily assume the roles tradition and epic necessity allocate to them, with the central conflict between the accustomed winner and greedy Belgian legend Eddy Merckx and the Spanish mountain specialist José Manuel Fuente. Stars and Watercarriers was created by a small film unit that use a vivid, documentary style to describe the race from close up and sometimes quite from within. The film consist of ten sections, each with a title such as "A road of pain" and "A peaceful day"; thus it alternates between dramatic and more peaceful passages, which Leth's commentary leads the viewer through soberly, empathetically and humorously. The chapter "The trial of truth" stands out with its focus on the Danish star Ole Ritter, his technical, physical and psychological preparations and his performance in the time trials. Ritter is lauded with words such as "power, cycle and style in the simplest manifestation possible", and aesthetically, too, the section stands out: there is no background music or ordinary real sound. Instead, a sound close up of the chain as it seems to sing emphasises the utter concentration of Ritter's venture. Throughout the film Gunner Møller Pedersen's music supports the dramatic and aesthetic aspects of the race and thus sets the mood. The music mimics the light tread of the mountain specialists when they are in focus and seems to indicate the beat as we watch the more powerful riders.
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