Are you familiar with the story of Bertha Benz? She’s amazing. She was the wife of Karl Benz, who built the car that would start Diamler-Benz, a car that was one of the earliest successful internal-combustion gasoline automobiles. The problem was that he couldn’t bring himself to really try it out or promote it. That’s where Bertha comes in, taking what had to be the first real internal combustion road trip ever. To commemorate this, Mercedes made this little film. I’m just not certain why they made it feel so, um, creepy.
Now, don’t get me wrong; they did a very good job on the film, which looks and feels very historically accurate. I’m not entirely sure I understand the decision to make it so, well, hostile.
The beginning feels like a horror movie, with the ominous music and the peasants toiling, spotting the car puttering by and responding in fear, screaming about a witch coming. From that moment on, everything Bertha and her sons encounter in the town where she had to stop to buy ligroin, a petroleum distillate the motorwagen ran on, is hostile and aggressive.
A guy gets punched into some chickens. Almost everyone stares at her with a mix of fear, contempt, and anger. Nobody’s making this easy for her.
Maybe it was like that? Perhaps small German towns in the mid-to-late 1800s were full of angry jerks? I honestly don’t know.
There’s so much more to Bertha’s story than the troubles she encountered on her journey, too. The whole reason she took the trip was that she got sick of Karl’s unrelenting perfectionism and depression that was keeping him from actually doing anything with his invention, so she did something about it. She, without asking permission, took the car on a trip, a trip that would prove the viability of the car and change everything.
Also, she invented some crucial car parts along the way, like brake pads, and she did some clever repairs, unclogging a fuel line with her hat pin and repairing insulation on the spark plug wire with her garter, both of which are shown, briefly and without explanation, in the film:
It’s an interesting little film of her journey, but, for Bertha’s sake, I just hope reality was a lot less creepy than these fictionalized bastards are.