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Cycling the Frame: When Tilda Swinton cycled by the Berlin Wall

In 1988, one year before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Tilda Swinton took her bike and cycled around it with the filmmaker Cynthia Beatt. Their work became known as Cycling the Frame, a beautiful and surreal document showing a city scarred by a wall that cut it in half.

The movie starts and ends at the Brandenburger Tor, where Tilda Swinton leads us on a journey that is a clash of feelings.

Today, it’s almost impossible to recognize most places she has gone through. Sometimes, you pick up a sign that points to where the actress is. Sometimes, you have to guess based on the size and shape of the buildings.

But the movie is more than this. It’s a document of a time gone by and a surreal portrait of a city that has changed so much since this movie was shot.

Cycling the Frame with Tilda Swinton

The first time that Tilda Swinton set foot in Berlin was back in 1986 for the Berlinale. A few years later she filmed Cycling the Frame as a personal journey with her friend Cynthia Beatt and the questions that they ask in the movie become even more critical one year later when the Berlin Wall comes to an end.

In the movie, Tilda Swinton cycles through fields, lakes, and historic neighborhoods. The Berlin Wall follows her everywhere she goes, a constant presence in the landscape but also apart from it. The wall cuts city blocks in half, which can be seen next to buildings. It becomes almost a surreal element that turns everything into a depressing sight.

Tilda Swinton is not a passive agent in Cycling the Frame. She interacts with the Wall in ways that sound idyllically and almost whimsical. She reads poetry while she cycles. She takes a Polaroid picture of an East German guard tower and waves the image to the guards. She drinks wine by the lake with the Berlin Wall next to her. She picks up flowers under the vigilant eyes of the East German military.

Cycling the Frame is a historical document of a time gone by. It shows a wall being built in the middle of a European capital, scarred by the destruction of the Second World War. It’s even more powerful when you consider that the Berlin Wall would fall only one year later. Yet, it looks so unbreakable in the movie. And it would disappear into the history books soon after.

Cycling the Frame was shot in the summer of 1988 and is the precursor to The Invisible Frame, which was shot in 2009 and revisits the path that Cynthia Beatt and Tilda Swinton took. But, this time, without the wall. Together, they portray different eras poetically and beautifully.

Cycling the Frame — A Film by Cynthia Beatt with Tilda Swinton

Felipe Tofani

Felipe Tofani

Felipe Tofani is a passionate designer with a penchant for crafting unique experiences and a mixed taste in music. As the curator behind this blog's explorations, he takes pride in discovering fascinating destinations. Whether unearthing hidden gems or sharing captivating historical narratives, Felipe is the creative force driving the stories you find here. Join him on a journey of design, discovery, and the delightful rhythm of unconventional tunes.View Author posts