LUIS TRENKER | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 25, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 25, 2016


BIO: Alois Franz Trenker was born on 4 October 1892 in Urtijëi, Tyrol in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father Jacob Trenker was a painter from North Tyrol, and his mother Karolina was from Urtijëi in Val Gardena. He grew up speaking two languages: German, the language of his father, and Ladin, the language of his mother. He attended the Josefinum in Bolzano in 1902 and 1903. From 1903 to 1905, he attended the arts and crafts school in Bolzano, where he developed his skills as a woodcarver. In 1912, he entered the Realschule in Innsbruck, where he studied Italian as a foreign language. During his high school years, he spent his holidays working for mountain guides and ski instructors. After his matriculation examinations in 1912, Trenker studied architecture at the Technical University in Vienna.

Trenker's first contact with film came in 1921, when he helped director Arnold Fanck on one of his mountain films. The main actor could not perform the stunts required, and so Trenker assumed the leading role. He gradually assumed more roles on the set, and by 1928 was directing, writing, and starring in his own films. In 1928 he married Hilda von Bleichert, the daughter of a fabrics manufacturer from Leipzig, and together they had four children. In 1932 Trenker created (with Curtis Bernhardt and Edwin H. Knopf) a historical film “The Rebel”. Trenker stated that the film's plotline was of a Tyrolean mountaineer, Severin Anderlan, leading a revolt against occupying French forces in 1809, during the Napoleonic Wars. 

The main theme of Trenker's work was the idealization of people's connection with their homeland and pointing out the decadence of city life. This loosely played into the hands of Nazi propagandists, who seized upon the nationalistic elements of his work. However, Trenker refused to allow his work to be subverted as such and eventually moved to Rome in 1940 to avoid further government pressure. The style he had developed in the thirties was not limited to nationalistic, folkloristic, and heroic clichés. His impersonation of a hungry, downtrodden immigrant in depression era New York was regarded as one of the seminal scenes for future Italian neorealism by the likes of Roberto Rossellini.

After a break during World War II, he returned to the movie industry in the 50s, though by 1965 he was making primarily documentary films that focused on the Austrian province of Tyrol and South Tyrol, which had become part of Italy. 

Luis Trenker died on 13 April 1990 in Bolzano at the age 97. He was buried in his family's plot at Urtijëi. In 1992, for the centennial of his birth, his native town of Ortisei dedicated a monument that shows him in mountaineer dresses while looking at the Langkofel, a mountain he liked to climb.


1930: The Son of the White Mountain; 1931: Mountains on Fire; 1932: The Rebel; 1934: The Prodigal Son; 1936: Der Kaiser von Kalifornien; 1938: Love Letters from the Engadin; 1938: The Challenge

1942: Pastor Angelicus; 1945: Monte Miracolo; 1950: Mountain Smugglers; 1962: His Best Friend


1936: Venice Film Festival Award for Best Foreign Film

1966: Cross of Honor of the City of Vienna

1966: Order of Merit of the Italian Republic

1979: Bavarian Order of Merit

1982: Deutscher Filmpreis for Outstanding Individual Contributions to German Cinema

By Mohaiminul Islam

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