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GER 2012, 100 min

PARABETON presents 17 in Italy and France extant buildings by Italian master-builder Pier Luigi Nervi and ten examples of Ancient Roman architecture made of Opus caementitium.


PARABETON starts with the first still exstant dome built of concrete by the Romans in the 1st century BC in Baiae near Naples. Followed in chronological sequence by 17 buildings of Italian civil-engineer Pier Luigi Nervi (1891-1979) – inventor, grandmaster of concrete structures and the architect’s architect of the 20th century: among others the Pirelli-skysraper in Milano, the Headquarters of Unesco in Paris, the Palazzo del Lavoro in Turin,  the Palazzo dello Sport in Rome and the Papal Audience Hall at Vatican City. This succession is from time to time halted by cinematic studies of large Roman structures, among others the Pantheon and the Baths of Caracalla in Rome and Hadrians Villa in Tivoli. In doing so the film relates Nervi’s path-breaking constructions with the pioneering Roman inventions in his field 2000 years ago.

The film is the first part of the series DECAMPMENT OF MODERNISM (which also includes PERRET IN FRANCE AND ALGERIA and THE AIRSTRIP) with which Heinz Emigholz concludes his series ARCHITECTURE AS AUTOBIOGRAPHY about the origins, fate, glory and decline of modern architecture. In a way, PARABETON is the “grand finale” of the series by going back to the Roman origins of the constructional core of Modernism.


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Language: No dialogue

Press reviews

The art of concrete as a medium rivets the eye of the film world’s most acute observer of architecture, Heinz Emigholz, in “Parabeton.” Marking the 19th chapter of his “Photography and Beyond” series of docus on architects and their buildings, and the first of two under the title “Decampment of Modernism,” the docu traces Pier Luigi Nervi’s 20th-century constructions in chronological order alongside Roman buildings that inspired him. Pic will have great appeal to auds and fests with a love of architecture on the bigscreen. (Robert Koehler, Variety, 29.04.2012)

A film without dialogue that manages to speak with eloquence and even wit, Parabeton is the latest in an ongoing series of exquisite architecture documentaries by German veteran Heinz Emigholz. Somewhat more accessible than most of his output in that a gorgeously sun-baked Rome is the setting – the Eternal City’s celebrated ancient buildings are examined alongside their modern neighbors – it’s ideal rarefied fare for the more discerning highbrow film-festivals and arts-oriented TV channels. (Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter, 25.02.2012)

Awards and Festivals

- Berlinale Forum, 2012
- BAFICI Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente, 2012
- European Media Art Festival Osnabrueck, 2012
- Villa Romana, Florenz, 2012
- Kaunas IFF Litauen, 2012
- Vancouver International Film Festival, 2012
- Viennale – Vienna International Film Festival, 2012
- Underdox Filmfestival, 2012
- Film Fest Gent, 2012
- International Environmental Film Festival Paris, 2013
- Dokumentarfilmwoche Hamburg, 2013

Additional Texts

Pier Luigi Nervi

For Pier Luigi Nervi (1891-1979), building construction was both an art and a science. From the 1930’s on, he designed and built extreme roof and dome constructions and concrete frames for large buildings. His seminal designs and creations remain influencial to this day for arenas, halls and. He used insights from geometry for the development of a new kind of shell construction, generating three-dimensional lattices from concrete ribs covered with concrete surfaces that produced ever-changing images depending on the viewer’s perspective.


Director, Screenplay and Director of Photography
Heinz Emigholz
Assistant Camera and Postproduction
Till Beckmann
Heinz Emigholz, Till Beckmann
Sound Design
Christian Obermaier
Sound Mixer
Stefan Konken
Assistant Producer
Luca Pisciotta, Markus Ruff
Frieder Schlaich, Irene von Alberti
Produced by
Filmgalerie 451
In Coproduction with
WDR/3sat (Reinhard Wulf)
Founded by
Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien – BKM, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and Filmförderung Hamburg-Schleswig-Holstein
German Premiere
Theatrical Release


SCHATTENFILM (72 min) with additional shots, building by building navigation, Presskit
International Version (no dialog) 
Country Code
NTSC / Color
100 min + 72 min Extras
Aspect Ratio
Sound Format
DD 5.1 + 2.0
Set Content
Softbox (Set-Content: 2), DVD and Blu-ray Disc
Release Date
Info-Programm gemäß §14 JuSchG

Distribution Details

Screening Format
DCP (2K, 24fps, 5.1)
Blu-ray Disc (HD)
Aspect Ratio
HD, 1:1, 85
International Version (no dialog) 
Promotion Material
A1 Poster
License Area
Info-Programm gemäß §14 JuSchG