Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle HuilletJean-Marie Straub

b. 8 January 1933, Metz, Moselle, Lorraine, France

Danièle Huillet

b. 1 May 1936, Paris, France
d. 9 October 2006, Cholet, Maine et Loire, France

Saturday, 10 March 2007, 2:30pm: a cinema located in the basement level of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. It is a screening of rare German short films dating from the 1960s and ’70s, as part of the 29th Cinéma du réel International Documentary Film Festival. Included in the programme is the 15-minute film essay, Einleitung zu Arnold Schönbergs ‘Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielscene’ (Introduction to Arnold Schoenberg’s Accompaniment to an Animation Scene, 1972), made by Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet. As the encouragingly large number of spectators settles into their seats, a commotion can be heard from outside. Suddenly, a group of fifty or so activists bursts forcefully through the doors. Dispersing what look like pre-Photoshop-era leaflets throughout the audience, the group, made up largely of self-identifying unemployed young people, demands to be permitted to watch the film programme for free, incensed that a publicly-funded festival should be charging admission to its screenings, and advocating a more generalised divorce between art and commerce. Affronted by this protest, the Festival director, after ordering the projectionist not to proceed with the screening, and enlisting physically intimidating security guards to make their presence felt in the theatre, intervenes personally, declaring to the crowd (to their credit, the paying audience sides almost unanimously with the protestors, despite the inconvenience) that she will not be “terrorised” into allowing the screening to go ahead, thus provoking a prolonged occupation of the salle. In the end, the planned programme of films never takes place.

Perhaps the Festival director should have been more careful with her words when equating the protestors with terrorists. Straub himself would no doubt have enjoyed the irony. Less than a year earlier, he had explained his and Huillet’s absence from the 2006 Venice Film Festival, where their last film, Quei loro incontri (The Meeting, 2006), was to be honoured, with the following missive:

I wouldn’t be able to be festive in a festival where there are so many public and private police looking for a terrorist – I am the terrorist, and I tell you, paraphrasing Franco Fortini: so long as there’s American imperialistic capitalism, there’ll never be enough terrorists in the world. (1)

The statement shocked the festival-goers so much that Cameron Crowe, a member of the jury panel, even suggested that their prize for “invention of cinematic language in the ensemble of their work” (2) be rescinded.

Such controversy was never very far away from the work of Straub-Huillet, whose collaboration was terminated with Huillet’s death due to cancer in October 2006, an event which caused an outpouring of grief from members of what Serge Daney dubbed the “Internationale Straubienne”. (3) In 1976, West German television refused to air their adaptation of Arnold Schönberg’s Moses und Aron (Moses and Aaron, 1974) without excising the dedication to Holger Meins (a cameraman and imprisoned member of the Rote Armee Fraktion) appended to the start of the film. Their particular brand of Marxism, exhibited in films of theirs such as Les Yeux ne veulent pas en tout temps se fermer, ou Peut-être qu’un jour Rome se permetta de choisir à son tour (The Eyes do not Want to be Closed at all times, or Possibly Rome will allow itself to choose in its turn, more commonly known as Othon, 1969) and Geschichtsunterricht (History Lessons, 1972), incited fervent debate within European film circles. Even earlier, Straub-Huillet were mercilessly attacked for dedicating a film on the life of Johann Sebastian Bach to the Viet Cong, while the inaugural screening of their first feature, Nicht Versöhnt ode Es hilft nur Gewalt wo Gewalt herrscht (Not Reconciled, 1965), at the Berlinale provoked such an antithetical response from the audience of left intellectuals that Richard Roud was to say it made “the reception of L’Avventura [Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960] at Cannes seem like a triumph by comparison” (4). The film so baffled author Heinrich Böll, on whose story the script was based, that he stood by while his publishers threatened to burn the film’s negative. (5)

Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle HuilletSuch opposition was matched by equally passionate defence of their work in other corners of the European cultural milieu. Darlings of the Cahiers du Cinéma journalists during their Marxist turn, as well as journals such as Screen and Filmkritik in the 1970s, Straub-Huillet also had significant portions of Gilles Deleuze’s seminal Cinéma books devoted to their work. (6) Even today, critics such as Jonathon Rosenbaum and Tag Gallagher have made passionate pleas for the recognition of their contribution to the seventh art. And yet their output has had a singular failure to find even the kind of niche audience enjoyed by Godard, Rainer Werner Fassbinder or Pier Paolo Pasolini. Encouragingly, though, a revival of interest in their films is occurring. Recent DVD releases in the French-, German- and English-speaking markets have made their work far more accessible than it was even a couple of years ago. In France in particular, Straub-Huillet are presently the focus of unprecedented academic interest, with numerous monographs dedicated to them, and this interest is bolstered by continued retrospectives and public appearances by Straub. (7)

And yet, while those critical of their work are quick to pounce on it as “unintelligible, inaudible” (8), or simply “boring” (9), even supporters of “the Straubs” are often ready to concede that their films are “intellectual, dry, difficult” (10). Adjectives such as “ascetic”, “rigorous” and even “Jansenist” preponderate in critical reviews, and their work is invariably conceived as combining a Brechtian politico-æsthetic programme with the cinematographic austerity of Robert Bresson and Carl Th. Dreyer. But, while these figures are certainly important influences on Straub-Huillet, such a conception unjustly narrows the scope of their work. D. W. Griffith, Kenji Mizoguchi and, as Gallagher has gone to great lengths to detail, John Ford are just as important precursors to Straub-Huillet as Bresson or Dreyer, while Schönberg, Friedrich Hölderlin and Cesare Pavese have featured just as prominently as Bertold Brecht as source material. Focussing purely on the rigour and anti-spectacular quality of their work overlooks the intense viscerality of the performances of their usually non-professional “actors”, and the equally sensual role of the material environment in their work: insect noises, mountainous backdrops, ruins of the ancient world, the rushing of a stream, the sun, the wind. Straub is fond of quoting Griffith that, “What the modern movie lacks is beauty – the beauty of moving wind in the trees” (11), and Sztulman recalls that

the first time I saw [Die] Antigone [des Sophokles nach der Hölderlinschen Übertragung für die Brühne bearbeitat von Brecht 1948 (Suhrkamp Verlag), 1991], I said to myself, ‘How can it be that not once have I ever seen in a film a passing cloud change the brightness of the image. Because in the end, that’s what’s real: when a cloud passes, it moves, things change and vary. (12)

Critics, then, are right to point out the “materialism” of Straub-Huillet’s work – less in the Marxist sense of the term than in the sense that their films are conscious attempts to concretely bring material objects to the screen. Straub-Huillet’s refusal of aesthetic hierarchies means that an actor, a tree, a rock, a piece of music or a literary text all have an equally valid material presence which demands to be filmed with the utmost diligence and respect. (13) This has resulted in the development of a certain methodology through the course of their career. Straub-Huillet eschew dubbing in favour of direct sound, to the extent that background noises and even the static noise caused by wind rustling on a microphone are kept in their integrity, and the original sound of each individual image is retained. This, of course, has a huge impact on editing, as cuts cannot be made arbitrarily, but have to defer to the exigencies of the sound: Straub-Huillet will thus linger on an empty space in order to capture the fading footsteps of a character exiting the scene. Similarly, they reject all manipulation of the image in post-production (colour-matching, etc.). Abrupt sound and light transitions therefore abound in their films, often to great æsthetic effect, as with the cut to a babbling brook in Geschichtsunterricht.

Perhaps most disorienting for the spectator, however, is the work done to speech in their films. Derided by Kluge for using language as an “object” (14), Straub-Huillet refuse both theatrical and “natural” norms of speech in film, and have explored a diversity of approaches to the question: whether it be through the use of non-standard dialect in Machorka-Muff (1962), Nicht Versöhnt or Sicilia! (1998), a Bressonian approach of having non-professionals “mechanically” recite their lines, or a rhythmical speech based on musical conceptions of Sprechgesang. These differences can even appear within the same film, as is the case with Klassenverhältnisse (Class Relations, 1983), where the expressionlessness of the non-professional cast members contrasts with the bombastic performance of Mario Adorf. Of additional interest for Straub-Huillet are the possibilities created by having texts read out by non-native speakers – a practice that drew particular ire upon the release of Othon. (15) Furthermore, their work on speech rhythm, wherein marked syncopations are introduced into the texts, is based to a large part on the actual breathing patterns of the actor involved. (16)

Equally notorious is what in French criticism has come to be known as the “Plan straubien” (“Straubian shot”), which can roughly be defined as a pan or tracking shot of a landscape lasting up to several minutes in duration. While these shots have greatly contributed to the notion of Straub-films as boring and unwatchable, they are crucial for Straub-Huillet’s “pedagogic” project of “teaching people how to see and hear”. The spectator is encouraged to look at the images with the same care and receptivity as Paul Cézanne when painting the Mont St-Victoire (17), to see things in the image which would be unnoticed by a fleeting glance. The shots have notably been analysed by Deleuze in Cinéma 2, who was to write of the “tectonic, archaeological” quality of shots of landscapes which are “stratigraphic, empty and lacunary” (18), and in this way Straub-Huillet’s films return to the very early days of the cinema, of the Lumières or even Étienne-Jules Marey.

Frequently, however, these landscapes have a very concrete political meaning: the field shown in Dalla Nube alla Resistenza (From the Clouds to the Resistance, 1978), for example, was the site of a massacre of Italian partisan fighters, while the hill of the Père Lachaise cemetery in Toute révolution est un coup de dés (Every Revolution is a Throw of the Dice, 1977) was made with the bodies of slaughtered Communards. This fundamentally politicised approach to filmmaking was never relinquished by Straub-Huillet, even in the dark days following the collapse of the Soviet Union, leading Straub to self-deprecatingly refer to himself as an “old Stalinist” amidst the heated opprobrium of those who had abandoned militant politics. (19) Deleuze recognises that “everything is political” in their cinema, but draws some disputable conclusions:

[Alain] Resnais, the Straubs, are probably the greatest political filmmakers in the West, in the modern cinema. But, bizarrely, this is not due to the presence of the people; on the contrary, it is because they know how to show how the people are what is missing, what is not there. (20)

Although Deleuze alludes to quotes from Straub to help his case (21), this is a hasty generalisation of Straub-Huillet’s work. Othon, in their view, was a film on the absence of the people, but Moses and Aaron, on the other hand, was “a film not only on the relationship of the dialectic to the people, but [also] a film on the people. […] This here will be a film on the people and on its presence.” (22) Deleuze’s conclusion that “If the people is missing, if there is no more consciousness, evolution, revolution, it is the schema of overthrow which itself becomes impossible” (23) thus contrasts with Straub-Huillet’s dogged commitment to a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. Nevertheless, if Trop tôt, trop tard (Too Early, Too Late, 1981) is anything to go by, in which the eerily depopulated landscapes of France are contrasted to the teeming volatility of the Egyptian locations, any people capable of breaking with capitalism will most likely come from the Third World. (24)

This is not to depict Straub-Huillet as doctrinaire, however. In an early interview, Straub stated, “I don’t know if I’m a Marxist. I don’t know, because there are so many ways to be Marxist. I haven’t read all of Marx. Marxism is a method, it’s not an ideology.” Later, he even demonstrated distinct opposition to the productivist outlook of Marx (25) and the couple appeared to identify more closely with Benjamin’s fusion of Marxism with mysiticism, as exhibited in his Theses on Philosophy and History, from which they are fond to quote that “the revolution is a tiger’s leap into the past” (26). If communism is present in their films, then it is the “communist dream” of Hölderlin (27), rather than any specific social programme laid out by Marxists, let alone the disasters of 20th century “really existing socialism”. The themes that predominate in their works are eternal notions of resistance and morality, and Alain Badiou sees them as “intemporal Marxists” for whom “the question of power, class relations, is much older [and] much more powerfully structured than [the militant left’s] agitation believed” (28).

Biographical Background

Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle HuilletStraub and Huillet were very reticent to give background information on their own lives, with Straub asserting, “I try to make as little fuss about my life as possible […] To draw artists themselves into their works, that is the 19th century.” (29) Confusion even existed as to their marital status. (30) Their rejection of the author as a creative singularity manifests itself in a number of ways. First, there is their status as a filmmaking couple, who took joint responsibility for their work. (31) As Pedro Costa’s documentary, Où gît votre sourire enfoui? (2001), shows, a division of labour existed between the two, with Straub taking responsibility for mise en scène and Huillet taking charge of sound, costumes and editing. But the intense nature of their collaboration was such that it would be senseless to try to pick out of a film what is “Straub’s” and what is “Huillet’s”. Indeed, their work together over a period of half a century can be seen as one of the great love stories in the history of the cinema. While conventional concepts of what constitutes a “director” would privilege Straub’s role as metteur en scène and downplay the role of editing or costume design, Straub-Huillet firmly opposed such a hierarchisation, to the extent that they saw sound and camera technicians (long collaborations with Louis Hochet, Willy Lubtchansky and Renato Berta are noteworthy), and even actors, as having equal claim to authorial status. Straub-Huillet also showed no unwillingness to take part in the “menial” aspects of a film shoot, often helping with cleaning or catering duties. (32)

Furthermore, their position as authors is attenuated by the fact that their films are almost exclusively taken from pre-existing texts – whether literary, dramatic, musical or essayistic. Indeed, only a few lines of dialogue in their entire corpus are their own invention. (33) As Youssef Ishaghpour notes, however, their films are best seen not as adaptations, but as “documentaries of a special type: on works” (34). Their source material is indeed primarily derived from authors of the European cultural canon: Bach, Schönberg, Hölderlin, Brecht, Sophocles, Franz Kafka, Pierre Corneille; but it is interesting to note how many of their films come from original works which were marginalised at the time (Othon, Brecht’s Antigone) or were left incomplete (Moses und Aron, Kafka’s Amerika, Hölderlin’s Der Tod des Empedokles).

When asked for biographical information, their responses are, however, illuminating. (35) Straub related the occupation by Germany of his hometown of Metz (in Lorraine) when he was in school, an experience which was later to be referred to in the short Lothringen! (1994). The imposition of German as the area’s official language meant that he was taught by the direct method – as the children were simply forbidden to speak French in public settings. Huillet, meanwhile, has pointed out that she had learnt English and Spanish in school, but that their filmmaking ended up taking her from France first to Germany (due to Straub avoiding French military service) and then Italy, which she noted was “quite dialectical”. This contact with different languages has had a noticeable impact on their films, not only in the fact that they have made films in German, French and Italian, but also, in spite of their fluency in these languages, that all their films were, in a sense, made in a foreign language, in which the sonic qualities of the words spoken are just as important as the meaning the texts convey. Their work also upsets many standard academic notions of “national cinema”. Just what is the national status of a film such as Antigone, made in Italy by a French couple from a German translation of a Greek play?

The Work

For a long time, however, Straub-Huillet were most frequently considered in connection with the New German Cinema of the 1970s, and indeed up until the 1990s the clear majority of their work was in the German language, though much of it filmed outside of Germany. While they operated on the sidelines of this movement, their four earliest works – Machorka-Muff, Nicht Versöhnt, Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach (Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, 1967) and Der Bräutigam, die Komödiantin und der Zuhälter (The Bridegroom, the Comedian and the Pimp, 1968) ­– were of seminal importance to its constitution, and both Fassbinder and Wenders have paid homage to their work. (36) All four works have a striking stylistic unity – shot in grainy black and white, with high-contrast interior lighting, sparse décor and precise camera angles and movements often relying on a diagonal presentation of architectural spaces – which belies their thematic range. The shorts Machorka-Muff and Nicht Versöhnt are both based on Heinrich Böll stories, and both focus on post-war Germany’s Vergangenheitsbewältigung (coming to terms with the past). It now seems remarkable that theirs were the first German films to truly grapple with these issues – but less so when one recalls the moribund state of the German film industry prior to the signing of the Oberhausen manifesto, which was contemporaneous to the release of Machorka-Muff, but from which Straub-Huillet’s signatures were absent.

While Machorka-Muff stayed relatively faithful to Böll’s satire about a post-World War II German General (including some very un-Straubian moments, such as the filming of a dream sequence), Nicht Versöhnt not only radically condensed the original novel by squeezing 300 pages into a 50-minute film, but in doing so created a plot of remarkable density and structure. The film follows three generations of a family of architects (the Fähmels) who have had their lives and careers marked by the three manifestations of German militarism (the Wilhelmine empire, the Third Reich and the Federal Republic), and ends with the assassination of a “respectable” politician by the family’s mentally-disturbed matriarch. A viewer, however, is unlikely to perceive the intricacies of the plot until after several screenings; as Straub points out,

Not Reconciled is better described as a ‘lacunary film’, in the same sense that Littré defines a lacunary body: a whole composed of agglomerated crystals with intervals among them, like the interstitial spaces between the cells of an organism. (37)

The primary motivation for the Böll films, however, was to expedite a project that had occupied Straub-Huillet for more than a decade: Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach. The relationship of their films to music had already been noted by Karl-Heinz Stockhausen, who greatly admired the composition of film-time in Machorka-Muff (38), but for Straub the departure point for the Bach-film was “the idea to attempt a film in which music would be used, not as accompaniment, nor as commentary, but as aesthetic material.” (39) Scenes from Bach’s life, commented by his wife Anna Magdalena using excerpts from a fictional diary, were thus interspersed with musical sequences, generally captured in a single-take, in which the film’s actors (including Gustav Leonhardt, who played Bach despite the lack of physiognomic resemblance) actually played the period instruments. Straub described the film as a “love story”, but, in addition to the family relationship, the film also focuses on the material difficulties and confrontations with power faced by Bach, showing how they coloured much of his music.

Following what Straub called “the most aleatory of my films”, Der Bräutigam, in which Fassbinder’s action-theatre played a notable role (40), Straub-Huillet’s next film, Les Yeux ne veulent pas en tout temps se fermer, ou Peut-être qu’un jour Rome se permettra de choisir a son tour (The Eyes do not Want to be Closed at all times, or Possibly Rome will allow itself to choose in its turn, more commonly known as Othon), marked a rupture in their work in several regards. The first film made after their move to Italy, it was also their first film in colour, and their first film to reference the ancient world, which was to become a common focus of their work. But more than that: while the four previous films had perceptible affinities to the nascent New German Cinema, Othon was in every respects a cinematic UFO. The difficulties in following Corneille’s labyrinthine plot (based on Roman political intrigue recorded by Tacitus) are compounded by the fact that the Alexandrines are for the most part recited by non-native speakers of French, who speak their lines so rapidly and strangely that comprehension becomes impossible. Filming took place amid the ruins of Rome’s Palatine Hill, but, while the actors are dressed in classical costumes, modern-day Rome can be seen and – particularly – heard in the background, creating a permanent oscillation between past and present. Straub-Huillet’s “aphasic” film instigated a critical “guéguerre” (mini-war) between Positif and Cahiers du Cinéma at the time, with the Positif critics’ repulsion matched by Jean Narboni’s strident advocacy. Narboni saw Othon’s “radical, daring quality” as making “almost everything which presents itself as cinema today appear diminished and ageing” (41). Months of painstaking rehearsals with the non-professional cast were used to obliterate all expressiveness, emotional shadings, interiorising and psychology from the speech act, and what arises instead is a privileging of the mass, density and rhythm of the speech. Narboni invokes Derrida’s formulation of a “power of inscription no longer merely verbal, but phonic. Polyphonic” (42), and his Cahiers colleague, Jean-Louis Comolli, held up the film as the nonpareil of a truly political cinema, which questions its own “Production/writing/diffusion/reading” rather than merely displaying “the illusion of a political discourse” (43).

Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle HuilletThe oscillation between the modern and archaic worlds was continued with Geschichtsunterricht, drawn from a Brecht novel-fragment which outlined the role of the slave trade in Caesar’s rise to power and, written as it was in the late 1930s, sought clear parallels with the rise of Adolf Hitler. In the film, a Young Man, dressed in modern attire, interviews a series of Roman citizens, who each give an account of Caesar’s ascent. These sequences utilise careful shot construction based on the geometry of the filmic space (44), but have been overshadowed in the film’s reception by their interruption with three 10-minute long takes showing the Young Man driving through modern Rome. No recognisable action takes place in these shots, and their relentlessness provoked indignation among wide sections of contemporary film criticism. Some notable attempts have been made to provide a contextual reading of the shots (45), but in the end their lasting value is the documentary aspect of the footage: the Italian people are shown going about their daily business with a rare authenticity; for Straub, they represent “a world of sensation and colour [where] one hears mechanical saws, the noise of bladesmiths, the noise of cobblers hammering” (46).

The couple’s following three films – Einleitung, Moses und Aron and Fortini/Cani (1976) – have come to be known as their “Jewish trilogy”. While Einleitung and Fortini/Cani both resemble essay-films, with both looking at the evolution of the Jewish people in the 20th century from oppressed (by Nazi Germany) to oppressors (of the Palestinians), Moses und Aron takes the ancient world as its subject matter, and is a filmed version of the eponymous Schönberg opera. The opera, however, is taken outside, filmed both in the Alba Fucense amphitheatre and in Egypt itself. Schönberg intended the opera to contrast Moses’ message, delivered in Sprechstimme, to Aaron’s opportunist distortion of God’s word, delivered in song. While Straub-Huillet recognised that Schönberg was “anti-Marxist”, they saw the possibility of using his work as an “object of Marxist reflection” (47), and their experiences with Sprechgesang have been crucial for their subsequent work. Importantly, they included Schönberg’s incomplete third act (which has no music and is frequently excised from performances), in which Moses, having been defeated at the end of the second act, returns to punish Aaron for his perfidy. The film was to be Straub-Huillet’s most expensive and logistically elaborate production, requiring, for instance, the fabrication of a Golden Calf, and contains scenes of a spectacular nature rare in Straub-Huillet’s corpus – the sacrifice of the virgins being the most flagrant example.

Jacques Rancière locates Dalla Nube alla Resistenza as marking the most significant turning point in Straub-Huillet’s work: that from a dialectical to a lyrical dispositif, from a workerist conception of communism to a peasant-based, ecological one, a communism which “always already” exists in the relationship of the peasants to their land and the natural environment. (48) The two-part film is based on extracts from a pair of works by the Italian author Cesare Pavese: Dialoghi con Leucò (based on Roman mythology) and La luna e i falò (set in 20th-century Italy), and foreshadowed a preoccupation by Straub-Huillet with Pavese and Elio Vittorini in later years, which yielded Sicilia!, Operai, Contadini (Workers, Peasants, 2000), Umiliati (The Humiliated, 2002) and Quei loro incontri. Particularly in the English- and German-speaking world, these works are the most critically disregarded of Straub-Huillet’s œuvre – partly due to their non-existent distribution – but offer a rich seam of material which one can only hope will be given the attention they deserve in years to come. We need only consider the striking performance of Angela Nugara in Sicilia!, who incarnates “the nobility of the poor, a nobility of the word, a capacity to rise up and speak in bringing the utmost attention to language itself” (49).

Too Early, Too Late represents the most striking use of “Straubian shots” in their work, and in some ways incarnates a “Straub-Huillet pur”. While the soundtrack is composed of voice-over readings of essays by Friedrich Engels and the Egyptian Marxist Mahmoud Hussein, the images commence with a shot circling the Place de la Bastille seven times, and continue with slow pans of the French countryside, followed by a number of shots taken from Egypt of peasants farming, people circulating in the streets and, in a distinct nod to the Lumières, workers leaving a factory. The film has become totemic of Straub-Huillet’s work, and even the title – which most directly refers to the revolutionary moment as coming too late to the First World and too early to the Third – has generated a diverse range of critical/theoretical reverberations.

Made in 1983, Klassenverhältnisse (Class Relations) constituted a return of sorts: their first film shot in Germany since 1969, it was also a return to the black-and-white æsthetic of the earlier films. The film is often viewed as one of the strangest Kafka adaptations, but their approach to his Amerika-novel is precisely one that rejects the common mysticist, oneiric view of the writer. For Straub-Huillet, Kafka is best viewed as “the only poet of industrial civilisation” (50), and we follow the protagonist, Karl Rossman, in a downwards spiral though the different social classes of early American capitalism. The catastrophic physical and emotional effects of industrial labour are patent in the film, as Straub says: “What is talked about in Amerika? Nothing but people who are afraid of losing their job. This is much more important than the bureaucracy. With Kafka it is even decisive […]” (51)

As Ursula Böser notes, however, Straub-Huillet tone down much of the novel’s “images of power and suppression. Where the writer describes working conditions which recall scenes from the inferno of human labour […] Class Relations refrains from such visualisation.” (52) Instead, power relations in the film are inscribed through shot construction and the speech act. Members of different social classes inhabit “scenographic islands” in the film, which are only crossed by violent gestures shown in elliptical fashion: a random hand grabs a throat, arms shove a torso out of frame. As for the use of speech in the film, Straub-Huillet’s use of a “fan of actors” had an important role to play in the narrative. Just as in Kafka characters in a position of power use a highly technocratic, verbose language to dominate their subordinates, so too do the professional actors playing them impart their charisma and “screen presence” to manipulate the spectator, while the non-professionals playing the more lowly characters speak in mechanical phrases chopped up by drawn out syncopations.

Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle HuilletKlassenverhältnisse was warmly received in Germany, but those hoping for more of the same were to be disappointed with the following Hölderlin trilogy. Der Tod des Empedokles, oder Wenn dann der Erde grün von neuem euch erglänzt (The Death of Empedocles, 1986), Schwarze Sünde (Black Sin, 1988) and Antigone were all based on dramas by the Romantic poet (the first two incomplete treatments of the Empedocles story, the third a translation of the Sophocles play later reworked by Brecht). All three were filmed in a similar manner: actors in robes shouted their lines in windy ancient amphitheatres, and for the most part fidelity to the original texts was maintained. The syncopated speech of Klassenverhältnisse was accentuated and combined with the radical translations of Hölderlin, in whose paratactic style, as Benjamin noted, “meaning plunges from abyss to abyss until it threatens to become lost in the bottomless depths of language” (53). Once again, shot construction played a crucial role in the films, and Antigone is unique for having every shot in the 99-minute long film taken from a single camera position, with only the axis and lens objective changing. Caroline Champetier, one of the cinematographers on the Kafka-film, sees this as the way to “most intelligently respect the existing space, to take into account its lines of force” (54), while Alain Philippon views space as being treated in a “sacred” manner in the Empedocles films. (55) Tag Gallagher notes the irony in Straub-Huillet’s most specifically political film being a Greek tragedy from the fifth-century BC (56), but, while the Brecht-staging sought a clear equation between Creon and Hitler (with a prologue set in Berlin – excised from the film – making the point clear), for Straub-Huillet it was the eternal question of Antigone’s resistance to power and Ismene’s opportunism in the face of it which was more pressing. As Straub succinctly put it: “I love the terrorism of this young woman, her revolt.” (57)

Straub-Huillet’s work following the Empedocles trilogy has taken a number of paths. The Pavese and Vittorini adaptations have already been mentioned, and to these can be added Lothringen!, based on Colette Baudoche by Maurice Barrès and focussing on the post-1870 German occupation of the region; Von Heute auf Morgen (From Today to Tommorow, 1996), a filming of Schönberg’s eponymous modernist musical comedy; and the video short, Europa 2005 27 octobre (Cinétracts) (2006). Additionally, two films, Cézanne (1989) and Une Visite au Louvre (A Visit to the Louvre, 2004), have shown a meticulously filmed series of paintings with a voice-over commentary extracted from Joachim Gasquet. That, in spite of four decades of work and a towering status in modern European cinema, they would still come up against intransigent institutional opposition to their work is evinced by the petty nature of Arte’s rejection of their funding proposal for the latter film, which has since circulated on the internet and for which the only apt word is philistinism. (58)

Huillet’s death, at the time of Quei loro incontri’s cinematic release, created the fear that “dead, Danièle Huillet kills us twice, because her passing probably means that Straub will never film again.” (59) Happily, this has proved not to be the case. Straub has subsequently completed three short films – Il Ginocchio di Artemide (Artemis’ Knee, 2007), Itinéraire de Jean Bricard (The Itinerary of Jean Bricard, 2007) and Le Streghe, femmes entre elles (2008) – have continued the couple’s æsthetic trajectory. Perhaps the most emotional moment of the films is, however, an absence: the absence in the credits of “et Danièle Huillet” following the phrase “Un film de Jean-Marie Straub”.

Viewing a Straub-Huillet film

To finish this overview of their work, I would like to take this opportunity to give a brief account of the subjective experience of what it means to watch a Straub-Huillet film. Their films are often seen as pushing the boundaries of what is cinematically acceptable, and even champions of their work have their reservations. Jean-Michel Frodon recounts his panicked fear surrounding the foolish transgression of leaving the theatre mid-way through his first viewing of Othon (60), while Meaghan Morris gives the following impassioned account of a shot in Too Early, Too Late:

The camera is fixed in front of a factory. It stays fixed for what soon becomes an unendurable length of time. […] But my body is intensely in the cinema, present tense: my eyes hurt, as figures blur into flowing lines and random pulses of movement, filling and emptying the frame. I am mesmerised by this image, and yet, I endlessly look at my watch. (61)

The Straubs do not, however, tax human perception in the manner that some experimental filmmakers do: their work is free of flashing images, unbearable noise or hectic camera movement. Their “Straubian shots” do last longer – a lot longer – than a contemporary spectator is habituated to, and often with commensurate lack of dramatic or kinetic action, but such shots would not have been out of place in fin-de-siècle travel programmes, which had no problem attracting mass audiences. That these should be considered so unacceptable today can thus only signify that we, the audience, have been acculturated into a state of ever more frantic and impatient distraction.

Combined with the challenge often presented in comprehending the spoken word in their films, the spectator must adopt new methods of viewing. Certainly they must expect a certain amount of resistance, especially on initial screenings (and certain of their films resist me still), but the reward is there – frustration gives way to moments of sublimity rarely paralleled in the cinema, incomprehension cedes to revelation. Like Hölderlin’s translations, in Walter Benjamin’s view, Straub-Huillet’s films touch meaning in the same way “an aeolian harp is touched by the wind” (62). These moments of clarity will come from the most unexpected of places: the passing of a cloud, the momentary disruption of an actor caused by a leaf blowing onto his lap, an unanticipated cut or camera movement, a plane flying overhead while Roman citizens machinate (in French verse!) on the Palatine Hill. It is these moments, more than the meaning of the texts utilised, which provide the value of Straub-Huillet’s films; as Gallagher notes: “It is possible to sit enchanted through their Hölderlin without the slightest idea of what the words mean. I have done so.” (63)

Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle HuilletIn this sense, the recent spate of DVD releases of their films presents a danger: the temptation to reach for the fast forward button must be resisted, and the texture and sensuality of their films mean that they still demand to be seen on actual film stock, in an actual cinema. Benjamin saw Brecht’s epic theatre as implying “above all, that the audience which this theatre desires to attract is a relaxed one, following the play in a relaxed manner” (64), and Straub-Huillet’s films are best approached in the same manner. Their “Straubian shots” remind me of nothing so much as sitting on a park bench in a foreign town, to rest for a few minutes before continuing my perambulation.

Due to the fact that their project not only rejects dominant cinematographic codes, but also stands against the inflationary, “pornographic” trend of most current cinema production, the Straubs have perenially faced the problem of distribution – the present political conjuncture means that a mass audience for their films does not (yet) exist, but they maintain the belief that in a “normal society” their work could be widely appreciated. Rejecting a safe position in what Straub disparagingly referred to as the middle-class “Filmkunstghetto” (65), they have even provocatively claimed that their films are primarily made for “cavemen and children” (66). Jean-André Fieschi, meanwhile, sees their films as being “addressed, today, to the citizen of tomorrow (to that which, today, points to, or to that which already exists of, the citizen of tomorrow)” (67). Straub-Huillet’s work is emblematic of that art which, in the words of Adorno, “respects the masses, by standing up to them for what they could be, rather than conforming to them in their degraded state” (68).

ENDNOTES:

  1. Ronald Bergan, “Danièle Huillet Obituary”, The Guardian, 18 October 2006.
  2. http://www.mastersofcinema.org/straub.html [Accessed: 17 August 2009].
  3. Serge Daney, Ciné Journal 1981-1986 (Paris: Cahiers du Cinéma, 1986), p. 256.
  4. Richard Roud, Straub (London: Martin Secker & Warburg, 1971), p. 44.
  5. Later commenting on this situation, Huillet recalls that the publishing company had ordered the film negative to be burned: “Even so, there were protests when the publisher said it was necessary to burn the negative. There were even people who said: ‘That reminds us of something.’ So his response was: ‘I didn’t say burn, I said destroy.’” (All translations are my own unless otherwise indicated). Bruno Tackels, Rencontres avec Jean-Marie Straub et Danièle Huillet (Strasbourg: Limelight, 1995), p. 58.
  6. See in particular the final two chapters of Cinéma 2, “Cinéma, corps et cerveau, pensée” and “Les composantes de l’image”, Gilles Deleuze, Cinéma 2: L’image-temps (Paris: Minuit, 1985), pp. 246-341.
  7. The Reflet-Medicis cinema in Paris, for example, hosted a retrospective of their corpus from November 2007-March 2008, during which Straub made frequent appearances to interact with the audience in typically truculent fashion. This retrospective culminated with the première in the Cinémathèque Française of Il Ginocchio di Artemide, Straub’s first film since the death of Huillet.
  8. See Robert Benayoun, “Les Enfants du Paradigme”, Positif, No. 122 (1970), pp. 7-26.
  9. This was the position of West Germany’s Film Evaluation Board (Filmbewertungsstelle), which notified Straub that the “monotony [of History Lessons] results in boredom”. See Hartmut Bitomsky, “Geschichtsunterricht seit seiner Herstellung: ein Film und seine kommerzielle Zensur”, Filmkritik, Vol. 18, No. 5 (1974), pp. 210-23.
  10. Maureen Turim, “Textuality and Theatricality in Brecht and Straub/Huillet’s History Lessons”, in Eric Rentschler, German Film and Literature: Adaptations and Transformations (New York: Methuen, 1986), p. 234.
  11. Jonathon Rosenbaum, Film: The Front Line 1983 (Denver: Arden, 1983), p. 197.
  12. Philippe Lafosse (Ed.), L’Étrange cas de Madame Huillet et Monsieur Straub (Toulouse-Ivry sur Seine: Ombres-À Propos, 20070, p. 59.
  13. Their truly non-hierarchical approach to filmmaking can well be summed up by their fondness for the Rosa Luxembourg quotation that “the fate of an insect which struggles between life and death, somewhere in a nook sheltered from humanity, is as important as the fate and the future of the revolution.” See Tackels, Rencontres, p. 15.
  14. See Roud, Straub, p. 54.
  15. Straub, for instance, relates the reaction of French academics to a screening of the film in Rome who exclaimed: “Mr Straub, we are French, we are academics here at the French cultural institute … and IN YOUR FILM THERE IS NOT ONE WORD OF FRENCH, CORNEILLE C’EST LA FRANCE!” (Upper case in original.) Klaus Nothnagel, “Gespräch mit Straub/Huillet”, epd Film, No. 9 (1984), p. 25.
  16. As Huillet explains it: “If you don’t find a structure, the text does not pass onto the screen. You must find a structure that depends on the breathing capacity of each actor. We do it the same way conductors do it with musicians: first off, we tell them to learn how to breath.” Lafosse, L’Étrange Cas, p. 81.
  17. Yet another favourite quote of Straub-Huillet’s is attributed to Cézanne: “Look at this mountain, it was once fire.” Dominique Paini “Straub, Hölderlin, Cézanne”, in Anne-Marie Faux (Ed.), Conversations en archipel (Milan: Mazotta-Cinémathèque Française, 1999), p. 98.
  18. Deleuze, Cinéma 2, pp. 317-8.
  19. Peter Handke’s article “Kinonacht, Kinotiernacht”, which attacks Straub-Huillet’s “antiquated class struggle politics” and the “petty spirit of explicit thinking”, amidst a general support of their Antigone, is one of the most flagrant examples of this. In Eric Pleskow (Ed.), Die Früchte des Zorns und der Zärtlichkeit: Werkschau Danièle Huillet/Jean-Marie Straub (Vienna: Viennale ’04 Programme, 2004), p. 115.
  20. Deleuze, Cinéma 2, p. 281.
  21. The following passage from Deleuze: “has there ever been a German people, in this country which has failed its revolutions, and has been constituted under Bismarck and Hitler, only to be separated once more?” (Ibid., p. 281) is a direct allusion to Straub, who stated: “Not Reconciled is the history of a frustration [..]. of a people who failed their revolution of 1849 and who did not liberate themselves from fascism.” Jean-Marie Straub, “Frustration de la violence”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 177 (1966), p. 64.
  22. Sebastian Schadhauser et al., “Entretien avec Jean-Marie Straub et Danièle Huillet”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 223 (1970), p. 57.
  23. Deleuze, Cinéma 2, p. 286. The English translation gives “renversement” (overthrow) as “reversal”, which is a clear mistranslation, as is evident in the ensuing sentence: “There will no longer be a conquest of power by a proletariat, or by a united or unified people.”
  24. See Helge Heberle and Monikaa Funke Stern, “Das Feuer im Innern des Berges: Gespräch mit Danièle Huillet”, Frauen und Film, No. 32 (1982), p. 10.
  25. “Now I think that Marx was wrong and that the Lyon weavers were right when they destroyed their machines.” Interview with Eduard Waintrop, “Antigone”, Libération, 1 September 1992.
  26. Walter Benjamin, “Geschichtsphilosophische Thesen”, Illuminationen (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1961), p. 276.
  27. Straub, “Jean-Marie Straub”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 400 (1988), p. 48.
  28. Alain Badiou, “Penser le surgissement de l’événement”, Cahiers du Cinéma (hors-série): Cinéma 68 (1998), p. 14.
  29. Manfred Blank, “Wie will ich lustig lachen, wenn alles durcheinandergeht”, Filmkritik, Vol. 28, No. 9-10, (1984), p. 269.
  30. Upon Huillet’s death, Jonathon Rosenbaum commented, “I’ve never known anyone who knew her and Jean-Marie well enough to know absolutely for sure whether or not they were literally husband and wife.” “The Place(s) of Danièle”, Undercurrent No. 3 (2006). [Accessed: 17 August 2009].
  31. The equal status of Danièle Huillet took a long time to be accepted: their first films were signed by Straub alone, and early critical responses to their work (including Roud’s monograph) overlooked Huillet’s role entirely.
  32. See Dietrich Kuhlbrodt, “Klassenverhältnisse: bei den Dreharbeiten”, in Wolfram Schütte (Ed.), Klassenverhältnisse: von Danièle Huillet und Jean-Marie Straub nach dem Amerika-Roman “Der Verschollene” von Franz Kafka (Frankfurt: Fischer, 1984), pp. 24, 27, 29.
  33. In explaining this reluctance, Straub declared that he does not “find it rich enough to demand of people that they spend one and a half hours in the cinema, grappling with a thing, let’s say a film, that we have made. I think there’s more to it than the petty thoughts that we could have.” Peter Jansen and Wolfram Schütte, Herzog/Kluge/Straub (Munich: Carl Hanser, 1976), p. 211.
  34. Youssef Ishaghpour, D’une image à l’autre : la nouvelle modernité du cinéma (Paris: Denoël-Gonthier, 1982), p. 121.
  35. See Jansen and Schütte, Herzog/Kluge/Straub, pp. 241-2.
  36. Fassbinder included a travelling shot from Der Bräutigam of Munich’s red-light district in his early film Die Liebe ist kälter als der Tod (1969), while Wenders showed a television screening the Bach-film in Falsche Bewegung (1975).
  37. Straub, “Frustration de la violence”, p. 64. The fact that this statement came well before such concepts gained common currency in film theory serves to further underline the seminal importance of their work.
  38. Karl-Heinz Stockhausen, “Brief an Jean-Marie Straub (1963)”, Pleskow (ed.), Die Früchte des Zorns und der Zärtlichkeit, p. 54.
  39. Straub, “Der Bachfilm”, Filmkritik, Vol. 10, No. 11 (1966), p. 61.
  40. In a retrospective piece on the film, Philippe Garrel recalls that seeing “the ghost of Fassbinder there on a black-and-white screen hit me in the guts.” See “Le fiancé, la comédienne et le maquereau”, in Faux (Ed.), Conversations en archipel, p. 29.
  41. Jean Narboni, “La vicariance du pouvoir”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 224 (1970), p. 43.
  42. Ibid, p 44.
  43. Jean-Louis Comolli, “Film/Politique (2): L’Aveu : 15 Propositions”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 224 (1970), p. 49.
  44. For an excellent breakdown of the film’s shot construction, see Martin Walsh, The Brechtian Aspect of Radical Cinema (London: BFI, 1981).
  45. See Ibid, p. 62; Turim, “Textuality and theatricality”, pp. 237-8; Gilberto Perez, The Material Ghost: Films and their Medium (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1998), p. 283.
  46. Albert Cervoni, “Entretien avec Jean-Marie Straub”, Cinéma 75, No. 203 (1975), p. 50.
  47. Joel Rogers, “Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet interviewed: Moses and Aaron as an Object of Marxist Reflection”, Jump Cut, No. 12-13 (1976), p. 61.
  48. Lafosse, L’Étrange cas, p. 143.
  49. Ibid, p. 144.
  50. Blank, “Wie will ich lustig lachen”, p. 271.
  51. Schütte, “Gespräch mit Danièle Huillet und Jean-Marie Straub”, in: Schütte, Klassenverhältnisse, p. 39.
  52. Ursula Böser, The art of seeing, the art of listening: visual representation in the films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet (Frankfurt: Europaischer Verlag, 2004), p. 116.
  53. Benjamin, “Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers”, Illuminationen, pp. 81-2.
  54. Alain Bergala, “La plus petite planète du monde”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 364 (1984), p. 28.
  55. Alain Philippon, “Le secret derrière les arbres”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 400 (1987), p. 41.
  56. Tag Gallagher, “Lacrimae Rerum Materialized”, Senses of Cinema, No. 37 (2005).
  57. Waintrop, “Antigone”.
  58. www.cineastes.net/textes/straub-cezanne1.html [Accessed: 17 August 2009].
  59. Olivier Seguret, “Straub sans Huillet”, Libération, 11 October 2006.
  60. See Jean-Michel Frodon, “Qu’est-ce qu’on voit ?”, in Faux (Ed.), Conversations en archipel, p. 109.
  61. Meaghan Morris, Too Soon, Too Late: History in Popular Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), p. xxiii.
  62. Benjamin, “Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers”, p. 68.
  63. Gallagher, “Lacrimae Rerum Materialized”.
  64. Benjamin, “Was ist das epische Theater?”, in Benjamin, Versuche über Brecht (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1966), p. 22.
  65. The “art film ghetto”: Michel Delahaye, “Entretien”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 180 (1966), p. 52.
  66. Andi Engel, “Andi Engel talks to Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet is there too”, Enthusiasm, No. 1 (1975), p. 10.
  67. Jean-André Fieschi, “Jean-Marie Straub”, Ça cinéma, No. 9 (1976), p. 21.
  68. Theodor W. Adorno, Ästhetische Theorie (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1970), p. 356.

Filmography

(Where films have not had an English-language release, direct translations of the titles are given)

Machorka-Muff (1962). Based on: Hauptstädtisches Journal (Bonn Diary) by Heinrich Böll. 18 minutes. 35mm B&W.

Nicht Versöhnt ode Es hilft nur Gewalt wo Gewalt herrscht (Not Reconciled, 1965). Based on: Billard um halb zehn (Billiards at half-past nine) by Heinrich Böll. 52 minutes. 35mm B&W.

Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach (Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, 1967). With texts from: necrologue and letters by Johann Sebastian Bach. 94 minutes. 35mm B&W.

Der Bräutigam, die Komödiantin und der Zuhälter (The Bridegroom, the Comedian and the Pimp, 1968). Based on: Krankheit der Jugend (Pains of Youth) by Ferdinand Bruckner. 23 minutes. 35mm B&W.

Les Yeux ne veulent pas en tout temps se fermer, ou Peut-être qu’un jour Rome se permettra de choisir a son tour (The Eyes do not Want to be Closed at all times, or Possibly Rome will allow itself to choose in its turn, more commonly known as Othon, 1969). Based on: Othon by Pierre Corneille. 88 minutes. 16mm colour.

Geschichtsunterricht (History Lessons, 1972). Based on: Die Geschäfte des Herrn Julius Caesar (The Business Affairs of Mr. Julius Caesar) by Bertolt Brecht. 88 minutes. 16mm colour.

Einleitung zu Arnold Schönbergs Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielscene (Introduction to Arnold Schoenberg’s Accompaniment to an Animation Scene, 1972). With texts from: letters by Wassily Kandinsky and Arnold Schönberg. 16 minutes. 16mm colour/B&W.

Moses und Aron (Moses and Aaron, 1974). Based on: Moses und Aron (Moses and Aaron) by Arnold Schönberg. 107 minutes. 35mm colour.

Fortin/Cani (1976). Based on: I cani del Sinai (The Hounds of Sinai) by Franco Fortini. 83 minutes. 16mm colour/B&W.

Toute révolution est un coup de dés (Every Revolution is a Throw of the Dice, 1977). Based on: Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira pas le hasard (A Throw of the Dice will never Abolish Chance) by Stéphane Mallarmé. 10 minutes. 35mm colour.

Dalla Nube alla Resistenza (From the Clouds to the Resistance, 1978). Based on: Dialoghi con Leucò (Dialogues with Leucò) and La luna e i falò (The Moon and the Bonfire) by Cesare Pavese. 105 minutes. 35mm colour.

Trop tôt, trop tard (Too Early, Too Late, 1981). With texts from: letters by Friedrich Engels and Mahmoud Hussein. 105 minutes. 16mm colour.

En Rachâchant (1982). Based on: Oh! Ernesto by Marguerite Duras. 7 minutes. 35mm B&W.

Klassenverhältnisse (Class Relations, 1983). Based on: Der Verschollene (The Man who Disappeared, also known as Amerika) by Franz Kafka. 127 minutes. 35mm B&W.

Montaggio in quattro movimenti per “La Magnifica ossesssione” (Montage in four movements for “La Magnifica ossessione”, 1985). 40 minutes. Video colour/B&W.

Der Tod des Empedokles, oder Wenn dann der Erde grün von neuem euch erglänzt (The Death of Empedocles, 1986). Based on: Der Tod des Empedokles (The Death of Empedocles) by Friedrich Hölderlin. 132 minutes. (There are four original versions that lightly vary in duration.) 35mm colour.

Schwarze Sünde (Black Sin, 1988). Based on: Empedokles auf dem Ätna (Empedocles at Etna) by Friedrich Hölderlin. 40 minutes. 35mm colour.

Cézanne (1989). With texts from: Ce qu’il m’a dit (What he said to me) by Joachim Gasquet. 63 minutes. 35 mm colour.

Die Antigone des Sophokles nach der Hölderlinschen Übertragung für die Bühne bearbeitet von Brecht (Suhrkamp Verlag 1948) (Antigone, 1991). Based on: Die Antigone des Sophokles (The Antigone of Sophocles) by Bertolt Brecht. 99 minutes. (There are two original versions which lightly vary in duration). 35mm colour.

Lothringen! (1994). Based on: Colette Baudoche by Maurice Barrès. 21 minutes. 35mm colour.

Von Heute auf Morgen (From Today to Tommorow, 1996) Based on: Von Heute auf Morgen (From Today to Tomorrow) by Arnold Schönberg. 62 minutes. 35mm B&W.

Sicilia! (1998). Based on: Conversazione in Sicilia (Conversations in Sicily) by Elio Vittorini. 66 minutes. (There are three original versions that lightly vary in duration.) 35mm B&W.

Operai, Contadini (Workers, Peasants, 2000). Based on: Le donne di Messina (The Women of Messina) by Elio Vittorini. 123 minutes. 35mm colour.

Il Viandante & L’Arrotino (The Vagabond & The Grinder, 2001). Re-edited passages from Sicilia!. 5 and 7 minutes respectively. 35mm B&W.

Il Ritorno del Figlio Prodigo (The Return of the Prodigal Son, 2002). Based on: Le donne di Messina (The Women of Messina) by Elio Vittorini. 64 minutes. 35mm colour.

Umilitati (The Humiliated, 2002). Based on: Le donne di Messina (The Women of Messina) by Elio Vittorini. 35 minutes. 35mm colour.

Une Visite au Louvre (A Visit to the Louvre, 2004). With texts from: Ce qu’il m’a dit (What he said to me) by Joachim Gasquet. 47 minutes. 35mm colour.

Quei loro incontri (The Meeting,2006). Based on: Dialoghi con Leucò (Dialogues with Leucò) by Cesare Pavese. 65 minutes. 35mm colour.

Europa 2005 27 octobre (Cinétracts) (2006). 10 minutes. Video colour.

Il Ginocchio di Artemide (Artemis’ Knee, 2007). Based on: La Belva (Lady of the Beasts) by Cesare Pavese. 26 minutes. (There are two original versions that lightly vary in duration). 35mm colour.

Itinéraire de Jean Bricard (The Itinerary of Jean Bricard, 2007). Based on: Itinéraire de Jean Bricard (The Itinerary of Jean Bricard) by Jean-Yves Petiteau. 40 minutes. 35mm colour.

Le Streghe, femmes entre elles (2008). Based on: Dialoghi con Leucò (Dialogues with Leucò) by Cesare Pavese. 22 minutes. 35mm colour.

Select Bibliography

Books in English

Ursula Böser, The Art of Seeing, the Art of Listening: Visual Representation in the Films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet (Frankfurt: Europaischer Verlag, 2004).

Barton Byg, Landscapes of Resistance: The German Films of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995).

Richard Roud, Straub (London: Martin Secker & Warburg, 1971).

Martin Walsh, The Brechtian Aspect of Radical Cinema (London: BFI, 1981).

Books in French

Anne-Marie Faux (Ed.), Conversations en archipel (Milan: Mazzotta-Cinémathèque Française, 1999).

Philippe Lafosse (Ed.), L’Étrange cas de Madame Huillet et Monsieur Straub (Toulouse-Ivry sur Seine: Ombres-À Propos, 2007).

Dominique Païni (Ed.), Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet, Hölderlin, Cézanne (Paris: Antigone, 1990).

Louis Seguin, Aux distraitement désespérés que nous sommes … (Paris: Cahiers du Cinéma, 2007).

Bruno Tackels, Rencontres avec Jean-Marie Straub et Danièle Huillet (Strasbourg: Limelight, 1995).

Christian Thorel and Jean-Paul Archie (Eds), Les Films de Jean-Marie Straub et Danièle Huillet (Toulouse: Ombres, 1984).

Benoît Turquety, Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub, objectivistes au cinéma (Paris: L’Age de l’homme, 2009).

Books in German

Peter Jansen and Wolfram Schütte (Eds), Herzog/Kluge/Straub (Munich: Carl Hanser, 1976).

Eric Pleskow (Ed.), Die Früchte des Zorns und der Zärtlichkeit: Werkschau Danièle Huillet/Jean-Marie Straub (Vienna: Viennale ’04 Programme, 2004).

Wolfram Schütte (Ed.), Klassenverhältnisse: von Danièle Huillet und Jean-Marie Straub nach dem Amerika-Roman “Der Verschollene” von Franz Kafka. (Frankfurt: Fischer, 1984)

Published Screenplays

Moïse et Aaron (Toulouse: Ombres, 1974).

Les Chiens du Sinaï: Fortini/Cani (Paris: Albatros-L’Étoile, 1979).

La Mort d’Empedocles (Toulouse: Ombres, 1987).

Noir péché (Toulouse: Ombres, 1988).

Antigone (Toulouse: Ombres, 1991).

Chronique d’Anna Magdalena Bach. (Toulouse: Ombres, 1996).

Du Jour au Lendemain (Toulouse: Ombres, 1997).

Sicilia! (Toulouse: Ombres, 1999).

Ouvriers, Paysans. (Toulouse: Ombres, 2001).

Interviews and Other Articles

Rolf Aurich, “Irgendwo muß ein Punkt sein, daß man sieht, da brennt etwas”, In Filmwärts, No. 9 (1987), pp. 4-9.

Robert Benayoun, “Les Enfants du Paradigme”, Positif, No. 122 (1970) pp. 7-26.

Alain Bergala, “La plus petite planète du monde”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 364 (1984), pp. 27-31.

––– “Quelque chose qui brûle dans le plan: entretien avec Jean-Marie Straub et Danièle Huillet”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 364 (1984), pp. 32-4.

––– “Filmer Kafka”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 364 (1984), pp. 42-4.

Ronald Bergan, “Danièle Huillet Obituary”, The Guardian, 18 Ocotber 2006.

Hartmut Bitomsky, “Geschichtsunterricht seit seiner Herstellung: ein Film und seine kommerzielle Zensur”, Filmkritik, Vol. 18, No. 5 (1974), pp. 210-23.

Manfred Blank, “Wie will ich lustig lachen, wenn alles durcheinandergeht”, Filmkritik, Vol. 28, No. 9-10 (1984). pp. 269-82.

Jean-Claude Bonnet et al. “Entretien avec Jean-Marie Straub et Danièle Huillet”, Cinématographe, No. 33 (1977), pp. 23-8.

Barton Byg, “Straub/Huillet, feminist film theory and Class Relations”, in Sandra Frieden et al (Eds), Gender and German Cinema: Vol. I (Oxford: Berg, 1993), pp. 209-23.

Michel Ciment and Louis Seguin, “Sur une petite bataille d’Othon”, in Stéphane Goudet (Ed.). L’amour du cinéma: 50 ans de la revue Positif (Paris: Gallimard, 2002.), pp. 179-90.

Albert Cervoni, “Entretien avec Jean-Marie Straub”, Cinéma 75, No. 203 (1975), pp. 45-51.

Jean-Louis Comolli, “Film/Politique (2): L’Aveu: 15 Propositions”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 224 (1970), pp. 48-51.

Serge Daney, “Le plan ‘Straubien’”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 305 (1979), pp. 5-7.

––– and Jean Narboni, “De la nuée à la résistance: entretien avec Jean-Marie Straub et Danièle Huillet”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 305 (1979), pp. 14-9.

Michel Delahaye, “Entretien”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 180 (1966), pp. 52-7.

Andi Engel, “Andi Engel talks to Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet is there too”, Enthusiasm, No. 1 (1975), pp. 1-25.

Jean-André Fieschi, “Jean-Marie Straub”, Ça cinéma, No. 9 (1976), pp. 20-2.

Tag Gallagher, “Lacrimae Rerum Materialized”, Senses of Cinema, No. 37 (2005).

Simon Hartog, “There’s Nothing More International Than a Pack of Pimps (1970)”, Rouge, No. 3 (2004).  [Accessed: 17 August 2007].

Stephen Heath, “From Brecht to Film: Theses, Problems (on History Lessons and Dear Summer Sister)”, Screen, Vol. 16, No. 4 (1975), pp. 34-45.

Helge Heberle and Monikaa Funke Stern, “Das Feuer im Innern des Berges: Gespräch mit Danièle Huillet”, Frauen und Film, No. 32 (1982), pp. 4-12.

Rembert Hüser “Stummfilm mit Sprache”, Filmwärts, No. 9 (1987), pp. 17-23.

Theo Matthies et al. “Die Größe des Films, das ist die Bescheidenheit, daß man zur Fotografie verurteilt ist”, Filmwärts, No. 9 (1987), pp. 10-6.

Jean Narboni, “La vicariance du pouvoir”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 224 (1970), pp. 43-7.

Klaus Nothnagel, “Gespräch mit Straub/Huillet”, epd Film No. 9 (1984), p. 25.

Alain Philippon, “Le secret derrière les arbres”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 400 (1987), pp. 40-2.

Joel Rogers, “Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet interviewed: Moses and Aaron as an Object of Marxist Reflection”, Jump Cut, No. 12-13 (1976), pp. 61-4.

Jonathon Rosenbaum, “The Place(s) of Danièle”, Undercurrent, No. 3 (2006).  [Accessed: 17 August 2009].

Sebastian Schadhauser et al., “Entretien avec Jean-Marie Straub et Danièle Huillet”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 223 (1970), pp. 48-57.

Olivier Seguret, “Straub sans Huillet”, Libération, 11 October 2006.

Jean-Marie Straub, “Frustration de la violence”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 177 (1966), p. 64.

––– “Der Bachfilm”, Filmkritik, Vol. 10, No. 11 (1966).

––– “Erstes Lexikon des Jungen Deutschen Films”, Filmkritik Vol. 10, No. 1 (1966), pp. 44-8.

––– “Zur Kritik Machorka-Muff”, Filmkritik Vol. 10, No. 4 (1966), p. 221.

––– “Feroce”, Cahiers du Cinéma No. 206 (1968), p. 35.

––– “Post-scriptum: ‘Le Fiancé, La Comedienne et le Maquereau’”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 212 (1969), pp. 9-10.

––– “Einführung zur Fernsehaufführung von Othon”, Filmkritik, Vol. 14, No. 1 (1970), pp. 12-6.

––– “Lettre de Jean-Marie Straub”, Cahiers du Cinéma No. 233 (1971), pp. 49-50.

––– “Jean-Marie Straub”, Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 400 (1988), p. 48.

––– and Danièle Huillet “Direct sound: an interview”, in Gerald Mast and Marhall Cohen (Eds), Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 320-2.

Maureen Turim, “Oblique Angles on Film as Ideological Intervention”, in Klaus Phillips (Ed.), New German Filmmakers: from Oberhausen through the 1970s (New York: Ungar, 1984), pp. 335-58.

––– “Textuality and Theatricality in Brecht and Straub/Huillet’s History Lessons”, in Eric Rentschler, German Film and Literature: Adaptations and Transformations (New York: Methuen, 1986), pp. 231-45.

Eduard Waintrop, “Antigone”, Libération, 1 September 1992.

Other Works Cited

Theodor W. Adorno, Ästhetische Theorie (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1970).

Alain Badiou, “Penser le surgissement de l’événement”, Cahiers du Cinéma (hors-série): Cinéma 68 (1998), pp. 10-9.

Walter Benjamin, “Geschichtsphilosophische Thesen”, Illuminationen (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1961), pp. 268-79.

––– “Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers”, Illuminationen, pp. 56-69.

––– “Was ist das epische Theater?”, Versuche über Brecht (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1966), pp. 22-30.

Serge Daney, Ciné Journal 1981-1986 (Paris: Cahiers du Cinéma, 1986).

Gilles Deleuze, Cinéma 2: L’image-temps (Paris: Minuit, 1985).

Youssef Ishaghpour, D’une image à l’autre : la nouvelle modernité du cinéma (Paris: Denoël-Gonthier, 1982).

Meaghan Morris, Too Soon, Too Late: History in Popular Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998).

Gilberto Perez, The Material Ghost: Films and their Medium (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1998).

Jonathon Rosenbaum, Film: The Front Line 1983 (Denver: Arden, 1983).

About The Author

Daniel Fairfax is a doctoral candidate in Film Studies and Comparative Literature at Yale University and book reviews editor at Senses of Cinema