In Der Tod des Empedokles (The Death of Empedocles, 1986), Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub present, by means of Hölderlin’s verse, what constitutes for them a form of “communist utopia”. In a shot that frames Etna, showing a landscape devoid of human presence, Empedocles expresses the attitude to adopt for anyone who would dare to welcome the “unusual”: you must audaciously “forget” what “you have acquired, what the mouths of your fathers have told you, taught you, their laws and customs, the names of ancient gods” and instead direct your gaze towards “divine nature”. Only then will the sharing of wealth, actions, glory and the earth begin, only then will a “new life” open up in which each of us will be “like everyone else”.

This extract indicates, incidentally, that the film project that consisted of inventing a dispositif allowing the spectator to “learn to see and hear” implies a process of unlearning, a renunciation of a certain number of teachings. Welcoming the unusual requires passing through processes of dishabituation, disacclimatisation, activated thanks to the disadjustments of time that Straub and Huillet realise when making their films. Between diegetic time and the time of production, between the socio-historical context in which the text was written and that in which it is recited, gaps emerge, traces of which are preserved in the film’s images and sounds. These disadjustments open the film up to a deconstruction of (historical) meaning and the honing of the senses (sight and hearing).

Disadjustments

After having scoped out spaces that are more or less populated spaces, more or less saturated by noises of the French and Egyptian countrysides in Too Early, Too Late (1980) or of the streets of Hamburg and Bremen during the filming of Klassenverhältnisse (Class Relations, 1984), Straub and Huillet decided, in 1986, to shoot The Death of Empedocles in Sicily, in a natural reserve at the foot of Mt. Etna.

In the fourth sequence of this film (which extends from shot 47 to shot 63 in the published shot breakdown of the film1), Empedocles and Pausanias talk to Critias, Hermocrates and three Agrigentines who have come to chase them from the city. The stationary actors occupy precise points in space: a theatrical scene is constructed within this space in which Hölderlin’s text is recited. Straub and Huillet’s work is to render filmically sensitive this geographical siting. They choose a single point of view on the basis of which the shots that compose this sequence are filmed. The actors are divided into two distinct groups and the camera is situated between them. However, the point at which it is situated is absolutely not neutral, impartial or objective. The shot construction never really leads us to believe this: the camera is not situated at an equal distance from the two groups.

The rigorous framing and disciplined shot construction in the sequence, with shots taken from a single point of view, is an extension of the interpretation that Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub have made of the shot in the cinema – Einstellung in German: “Each image is the fruit of an imagination, and each image is a framing, and each framing is what the Germans call an Einstellung, that is, you must know how to situate yourself in relation to what you show, at what distance, and at what distance of refusal and fraternity.”[2 Jean-Marie Straub in Jean-Louis Raymond (ed.), Rencontres avec Jean-Marie Straub et Danièle Huillet (Paris: Les Éditions Beaux-arts de Paris, 2008), p. 27.]

The Death of Empedocles (1986)

The Death of Empedocles (1986)

The Death of Empedocles (1986)

The Death of Empedocles (1986)

The Death of Empedocles (1986)

The Death of Empedocles (1986)

The Death of Empedocles (1986)

Let’s clarify, firstly, that the term “imagination” in the mouths of the two filmmakers possesses a very particular signification: in their view, there is no imagination possible (not even dreams) without experiences, even if the imagination is always the “conversion of an experience into an image”.2 They position themselves in relation to the experience that they record as images through the narrative recounted (in the case of this sequence: the exclusion of two members of a community). The distance from the characters filmed bears witness to the degree of refusal and fraternity which the filmmakers evince towards them. In the documentary Wie will ich lustig lachen? by Manfred Blank (1984), Straub and Huillet explain that their interest in a film depends on the correspondence between its subject and their own experiences. Hence, there is an analogy between Straub’s exile in Germany and that of Karl Rossmann in Class Relations, and a familiarity between the situation of the characters in Othon and that of Straub/Huillet, children of the French petty-bourgeoisie, in their family, school and society. The filmmakers do not seek to transmit these correspondences and analogies by forcing the spectators to identify with a particular character, but by proposing a “fraternal gaze” to the spectator.

This “fraternal gaze” – ascribed here to Empedocles and the young Pausanias alike – is constructed thanks to a discrepancy of the point of view. From the same camera position, the two groups are observed following two different perspectives: a “subjective perspective” when Critias, Hermocrates and the three Agrigentines are filmed; and an “objective perspective” when Empedocles and Pausanias are filmed. “Subjective perspective” because the hostility present in the filmmakers’ gaze towards the characters is shared with Empedocles. “Objective perspective” because the point of view on the basis of which these characters are observed is not that of Empedocles. These two distinct perspectives have the effect of accounting for a solidarity of the filmmakers with Empedocles and Pausanias, which is amplified by the manifest hostility of the group that opposes them. At the same time, these two perspectives affirm that Straub and Huillet do not espouse the point of view of Empedocles, and do not make his subjectivity their own: “the spectator is on the side [of the character] but not in his head”, says Straub in Blank’s film.

The angle from which the scene is shot thus results from the dialectical relations between the characters of Hölderlin’s poem (theatre), between the filmmakers and the characters they show (cinema), and between the latter, the place in which they are located and natural phenomena (the movement of the sun, clouds, the wind, etc.). This is the conjunction of these diverse elements, this “dialectical tissue of heteroclite elements”3 which influences the filmmakers on their choice of camera angles.

The fact of only choosing a single angle from which to film the entire scene is neither anodyne nor a provocation. It corresponds to a precise filmic orientation, which consists in instating a materialist relation between the spectator and the film. A materialist relationship, since this procedure of placing the actors reciting Hölderlin’s text takes into account the concrete character of a precise space at the same time that it presents, for whoever watches the film as a work of editing and montage, the very construction of the film. The work of laying out the actors in the space and establishing the shot breakdown, carried out before the filming is perceptible in the finished film. Knowing how to position oneself in the space that is filmed means accepting to submit to the imperatives that it deploys rather than manœuvring or, worse, modifying or bending the space for which it is a match in the manner in which the directors wish to film it. This desire depends on the manner in which the filmmakers seek to restitute the place to the spectator. Much as the restitution of this place depends on the manner in which Straub/Huillet have “tamed” this space.4

Deleuze has qualified the landscapes in Straub/Huillet’s films as “stratigraphic” and “empty and lacunary”, where “the camera movements (when there are any, notably pan shots) trace the abstract curve of what has happened, and where the earths stands for what is buried in it.”5 This accent placed on the apparently necessary prior knowledge in order to enjoy a more complete film experience of their cinema was shared, to a certain extent, by Serge Daney. Against critics who saw Straub/Huillet as engaging in a terrorist approach, Daney concluded that it was a case of a “necrophilic piety, directed by the Straubs against the spectator, summoned to know or be silent in the name of the respect due to the dead – and above all these dead.”6 For too long, Straub/Huillet’s cinema was only commented, analysed and interpreted as a function of the information not communicated during the film, so well that the reputation of a demanding worked relates as much to the unfamiliarity of their method as it does to the knowledge that the spectator was supposed to possess to “understand” their films. Thus, the opening shot of Othon (1969) in which a panning shot and then an optical tracking shot isolate an opening in a cave has long had its existence justified by the fact that it could have been the site where Italian Resistance fighters hid their weapons. Certainly, Straub/Huillet, by communicating this information, have contributed to a certain degree in charging their films with a mass of supposedly necessary knowledge for watching their works. We could, however, invent other meanings for this shot by taking interest in what it shows, independently of the identity and the historical meaning of the precise location. It could just as easily symbolise the gesture of the filmmaker who buries his gaze under the earth in order to know the geology of the site, or – in a more phantasmagorical perspective – to disinter the ghosts of ancient Rome (the characters of Corneille’s play dressed in Roman togas) who will then return to haunt the ruins of the imperial capital. Other declarations by the filmmakers leave us thinking, on the contrary, that the accent should be placed more on the “condensed pure present” shown in their films, on the importance of feeling before knowing, or, more precisely, the absolute necessity of feeling for knowledge.7

More than an authoritarian “necrophilic piety” obliging the spectators to be silent if they do not know, Straub/Huillet’s intention is to give a “taste of life” through the stimulation of the senses and the presentation of “death at work.”8 It is a profane gesture where the paralysing respect for the dead is less important than what is and remains in the present time. Straub/Huillet’s films do not represent the construction of a dispositif that gathers the dead, but is conceived as the instatement of a tranquil space-time where the spectator can reflect as much on the ancient times described in the texts as on what they presently see and hear in the film.

The first sequence that opens The Death of Empedocles presents the dialogue between Panthea and Delia on the subject of the strange behaviour of Empedocles, who “without needs […] walks around in his own world; with a divine calm he walks furtively among his flowers” (Panthea). The 15 shots that compose this sequence alternate from close-ups of Delia and Panthea, wide shots that unite them and shots of trees seen from the path where the two characters are situated. The time necessary to show these shots leaves the spectator the possibility of gathering a certain amount of information, whether useful or not to the narration. Among this information – which we can consider as perfectly useless from a diegetic point of view – there is the positioning of the body, of the sun, the orientation of shadows, the shape of the robes, etc. Collecting this information, however, allows us to understand the strangeness that can result from a viewing inattentive to this type of element. In fact, the comparison that the spectator makes between the different close-ups of Panthea and Delia allows us to perceive that there are surreptitious variations between these shots, that changes that should not have taken place in the diegetic order have been recorded and retained. Most noticeably, the position of the sun varies from one shot to the other: in one shot the sun is behind Panthea, in another it is in front of her.

The Death of Empedocles (1986)

The Death of Empedocles (1986)

The Death of Empedocles (1986)

The Death of Empedocles (1986)

The Death of Empedocles (1986)

The Death of Empedocles (1986)

These disadjustments of diegetic time and production are achieved less through what are usually called “jump cuts” than they are by a fidelity to another concept of editing, which is that of “cutting” (coupure)9 Straub/Huillet’s way of conceiving editing is attached to the question of the “match” in space in order to present a scene on the basis of a single point of view, but totally negates the idea of the “match” when it comes to the lighting. The transition between shots must appear less as a reverse-shot or any kind of re-framing in diegetic space, and more as a caesura, an interruption of the diegetic unfurling by the visual revelation of the temporal gap that separates the recording of the two shots.

Such “irrational shots”10 result from the refusal of filmmakers to “work on the light” (since it is the “light that works”11) and their acceptance of the variations in meteorological conditions during the shoot. These cuts have the task of delinking the images from the narrative continuum. They have the function of opening up an interstice between two images that invites the spectator not only to feel that what is presented there is truly a “condensed pure present”, a unique present which will not be reproduced, but also to present a linking of unlinked shots, a montage of shots that is presented as the work of editing, a juxtaposition of shots presented as succession (“the cinema is not simultaneity but succession” said Straub12).

These interstices can be seen as gaps in the film, games, moments in space-time, opening that the spectator can invest so as to “establish the links, the connections, the ‘relations’, and to learn to decipher, to make connections, to ‘interpret’ reality, or better, realities”, as Danièle Huillet wrote in a letter addressed to the distributor Andi Engel.13 This practice comes close to the montage theories of Alexander Kluge and is distinguished from “invisible editing”, whose objective is the dissimulation of the change in the point of view and the perspective in focusing the spectator’s attention, thanks to the weak depth of field and the short amount of time dedicated to showing the shots, on the determinant elements for the narration – and of Eisenstein’s “montage of attractions”, which sought, on the basis of confronting different but thematically linked shots, visually supporting the signification brought about by the film.14

Kluge’s montage theories rest on the activation of the imaginative faculties (Phantasie) of the spectators during the film, whereas Hollywood cinema and the post-war West German “Papas Kino” result more in their disactivation. The filmmaker’s work consists in inventing a filmic dispositif that invites the spectators to become “co-producers of the film”,15 “co-producers” of its signification on the basis of their imagination, their singular experiences.

In contrast to the dominant doxa according to which such departures from the usual experience of the spectators force them to make an “effort”, to “get to work”, Kluge defends the idea that such a dispositif can offer a moment of “relaxation”, contrary to the dominant cinema where suspense and the search for the climax oblige the spectator to be constantly on alert so as not to miss the slightest index that the film makes us see: the senses are unlinked from “police-like” intentions and attention, which is required of the experience of spectating such as it has been configured since the beginning of film language.

Nonetheless, the rapprochement between Kluge’s theories and Straub/Huillet’s practice ends there. The cut implies, according to the German filmmaker, an insertion within the fiction of different, supposedly “documentary” elements (children’s paintings, illustrations of fairy tales, archival images, etc.) or, in a documentary, of fictional elements. In Straub/Huillet’s films, by contrast, the variations of light between the shots render the cut palpable as a cut. It is the slow rhythm and the parasitising of the diegetic continuum that offers precisely such a time of relaxation, in which vision and hearing can focus on elements that are a priori less important from the narrative point of view.

However, “death at work” did not only appear in the succession of these shots that constitute the narration. In Sicilia! (1999) the filmmakers do not hesitate to show two identical panning shots filmed at different moments in the day, one at sunrise, the other at 4pm. Straub/Huillet’s pedagogy does not only rely on the extended time of the shots, but also on their repetition (whether immediate or not). The multiple variations between the images are thus offered to the circulation of the gaze.

We could affirm that the strangeness felt when faced with these variations incites the spectator to circulate within the image, to “squint a bit at something other than the course of events that are what they are,” to use Fernand Deligny’s expression.16 The spectator relaxes because they are permitted to squint at something other than the important elements in the narration. The loosening results from the attention given to other elements present in the shots, to the wealth of noises present on the soundtrack, to the diversity of colours permitted by the variations in light, and even to the chance appearances of various animals (the butterflies in Quei loro incontri [These Encounters of Theirs, 2006] or a lizard in Antigone [1991] and The Death of Empedocles).

Dechloroform

The singular diction of the texts in Straub/Huillet’s various films absolutely does not result from a system imposed on the actors. It is a method, a work realised with the actor such that the latter appropriates (or “tames”, as the filmmakers would say) the text and discovers their own manner of reciting it by making an abstraction of punctuation. Thus the text is deconstructed by the actors who restructure it on the basis of their own respiration and the meaning of the text.

The “dynamiting” of the punctuation,17 the non-respect of the full-stops and the commas of Vittorini’s text, the rigorous articulation of the syllables recreate a structure, a “partition”, and thus highlight the non-spontaneity of the discourses pronounced. These rhythms, unique to each of the reciters, are the materialisation, the memory of phenomena that have emerged during various preliminary readings; which provoked “astonishment and contradiction” and which the actors have had to “integrate in the composition of [their] roles.”18 The objective of Straub/Huillet’s work with actors is to make the latter “tame” a text, to “incarnate” a text in their bodies, to enable the actors to make it their “own thing”.19

The slow phase of rehearsal, learning and taming the text, is an important stage in the construction of the film. The text must be read by the amateur actors for whom Elio Vittorini or Cesare Pavese’s works may well be totally unknown, and grasp the manner in which they should be read and recited. The aim is to circumscribe, as precisely as possible, the capacity of each person to pronounce a text over a certain duration and with a certain respiration, so as to determine, depending on the meaning of the text, the precise locations where the actor should insert pauses in order to catch their breath. This memorisation is operated by dynamiting the full-stop and comma and by redistributing the pauses depending on the breathing patterns specific to each reciter. It is through a re-assemblage of the blocs of texts as a function of the content and breathing capacities that a partition will be written.

We should connect this with the immobility of the reciters, which breaks the dominant conventions of acting. The rare gestures made by the characters are such that the spectator can not doubt for a single second the fact that these gestures have been minutely calculated in advance. They are cadenced, spaced out like “a typist [who] spaces out words.”20 For all that, this apparent restraint of the bodies and the rhythmic pronunciations of the text are absolutely not hermetically closed off from emotions, which, according to Brecht, need to be “manifested” and “emancipated”: “In the grouping of the characters and the movement of the groups, the requisite beauty most essentially result in the elegance with which the gestural material is presented and submitted to the public’s gaze.”21 Brecht affirms that a “certain elegance, a particular vigour and a singular grace of the gesture produce the effect” of distanciation.

All the characters have this elegance, whether the filmmakers give them a fraternal look or a hostile look. Thus, there is respect for a certain of unity among human beings in their capacity to offer elegant gestures, and a kind of division as far as their orientations and political positions: “In each film, the filmmaker should make us feel that man is a magnificent thing and that at the same moment he is a curse for the planet. And that if he continues to treat the planet the way he does there won’t be anything left of it.”22 In a sense, this is what the character Ventura says in Operai, contadini (Workers, Peasants, 2000), while reading on his notebook the text which narrates the autonomy experienced by this community of Italian workers and peasants: “We must think about how we are placed together. This encounter of the people could become a good thing, or the worst thing. Each one was someone who could, in combination with the others, become good or become bad. Each one was ready for the two combinations.” Contrary to the dramaturgies of the individual destinies that can themselves bend the course of events whose single way out seems to always-already be written, Straub/Huillet choose to represent their history in such a way that in the very shots they offer, the idea emerges that not only are the ways out uncertain, undecidable, but that they are collectively played out. In the dominant dramaturgical order, this proposition does not fail to produce a certain sense of strangeness for the spectator, which, in the framework of Workers, Peasants, for example, can only rely on the control, by a single character, of his own destiny.

However, this strangeness can only, in the aesthetic conjunction of “capitalist and globalist realism”, become unsettling.23 Sigmund Freund defines the Unheimlich – the “uncanny” – as “that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar” and which “has become alienated from it only through the process of repression.”24 Freud notes that many people find anything related to death strangely unsettling: whether dead bodies or the return of the dead, such as revenants and ghosts. What can we say, then, of the ghostly aspect that the actors give to the characters that they represent?25 the more it turns out that these types, in spite of their energy and vitality, represent political models or even, to speak like a doctor, ‘ghosts’ or anatomical models.” Walter Benjamin, “Bert Brecht”, Essais sur Brecht (Paris: La Fabrique, 2003), pp. 11-12.] The characters of Straub/Huillet’s films, indeed, have a spectral dimension: very little movement, a textual diction that transpires the work of repetition, gestural restraint, a fascinating immobility, such are the signs of this strange ghostly elegance. The repetition of history, of historical texts on the sites themselves through the exposition of the speech of the dead. The immobility of the bodies and the rhythm of the textual citations reinforce this idea that the actor speak in the past tense whereas their characters speak in the present tense. These forms of textual diction allow us to hear that is said has already been pronounced. What the characters say in the present tense, the actors recite it in the past tense by rendering palpable the sonic traces of the rehearsal of the texts.

With respect to Umiliati (The Humiliated, 2002), Danièle Huillet said that “the history of nature is not entirely the history of man. In spite of all the vandalism, it runs in parallel.”26 In their filmic dispositifs, the filmmakers make this discordance palpable, which appears in a more or less intense manner, depending on the film. Thus, the ruins of Othon, Antigone or The Death of Empedocles in which the spectator witnesses the return of nature among human constructions, we pass to the inscription of human beings in a space that is alien to them (perhaps even strangely unsettling or uncanny). The ruins that these three films presented were indices of regression and decline, while in Workers, Peasants and The Humiliated, untransformed nature (or nature that has totally absorbed the ruins) is the promise of a possible “resurrection”. The cinematic presentation of “death at work” must make the course of parallel histories be felt, or rather the intertwining of histories which from time to time go against the grain of each other. It must be felt through its organisation that there is not a single meaning assimilated in a constant progress.

The spectator exposed to such a transgression of the elementary rules of filmically representing time bears witness to the profanation of meaning. This is a defeat of the idea of “before and after, notions which were vague and empty for Antiquity elders – and which, for Christianity, had meaning only in terms of the end of time.”27 The cinematic material of Straub/Huillet’s films disturb our relationship with the cinema, to what makes the cinema: the projected images and the transmitted sounds. This cinematic disturbance has extra-cinematic repercussions: the unique experience of time to which the films invite the spectacles, the boredom they can cause, the absence of speech for long periods, or the flagrant temporal discontinuities in the editing of shots, engage the spectator in a radical rediscovery of time, its non-linearity, its fluctuations in the relationship each individual has with time. This radical experimentation is not without consequences for the manner which we each adopt, in order to see the world and analyse the meaning that is diffused by the dominant cultural representations.

Straub/Huillet’s films propose singular experiences of encounters with different reality. The coexistence within a single film of different realities, parallel histories whose interrelations are always ambiguous, breaks with the habits of the spectator in Western societies. In order to “draw things away from habit, dechloroform them”,28 as Robert Bresson wrote, the filmmakers have also chosen to break with the experience of time imposed on our societies and the urgency with which we are ceaselessly subjected to them. In this respect, Straub estimates that “militant” films renew, in their own way, the enclosure of the spectators within a sense of urgency. He then proposes to define a politics of cinema that is not inscribed in the inflationist orientation proper to capitalism.29 politique : ‘faucille et marteau, canons, canons, dynamite!’”, Hors-Champ, special issue (August 2001), p. 6.] Against the urgency and panic conveyed by the dominant “militant cinema”, Straub/Huillet endeavour to produce films that are intended to “give the pleasure of the air, the water, the wind, the sun, the light, the earth, etc., and the taste for defending them from those who destroy them.”30 In their view, communism should consist of not renouncing anything. The first renunciation consists of refusing to use your own intelligence to co-construct the meaning of a work. In the cinematic field, they refuse to “transmit ideas”, to explain to the spectator what they have to understand, the meaning of the film that they are watching and listening to.

The truth presented is concrete and particular because the construction of the films makes the spectator feel that the point of view of the camera is unique and special. The disadjustment of time renders palpable the impossibility of continuously recording the entirety of what takes place before the camera. There are things that do not cease to escape from their recording, that vanish. The point of view shown can not be omniscient, and no explicatory voice-over will try to make the spectator believe it. Sadness, rage or love must be felt in the manner in which the film is constructed, in the manner in which the gaze is constructed, and in the manner in which the sound recording is organised, and not in the discourse.

Intellectual emancipation in the cinema implies, for the spectator, (having the possibility of) breaking with the obligation to watch what should be seen and naming things such that they should be named according to the symbolic order. The spectator who breaks with explicatory logic is like the child Ernesto in En rachâchant (1982): he digs up alternative meanings behind common sense. He sees the “funny fellow” (bonhomme) behind the official photographic representation of the President of the French Republic (François Mitterand); he sees the “crime” behind the butterfly preserved under glass; finally, he sees behind the globe of the Earth “a football, a potato and the Earth” all at once. Emancipation means leaving the regime of appropriation (manus = hand, capere = capture), it means escaping from the hands that show, designate, grab and hit. These hands repress the insolence of Ernesto’s emancipation and threaten him with physical punishment.

En rachâchant (1982)

En rachâchant (1982)

En rachâchant (1982)

En rachâchant (1982)

*          *          *

Cézanne’s painting and Brecht’s theatre have in common the fact that they both try to express particular emotions through their artistic productions, but without having the goal of producing these same emotions in the spectator: the “action” is precisely situated in the gap between the emotion felt and the artistic form that it is presented in.31 Rage towards a particular situation, confrontation with the dominant representations of this situation (or this rage) produce this action, this interval where the imaginative capacities of the spectator can slide towards gathering the scattered traces of this work.

Realistic work consists precisely in presenting a unique, special perception of the object represented, but also presenting the traces of this materialisation of sensations, this metamorphosis in the film itself. It is a dialectic that works on these contradiction. As Bresson underlines: “Not absolutely realistic because it is theatrical and conventional. Not absolutely theatrical and conventional because it is realistic.”32

Translated by Daniel Fairfax. This text first appeared, in a slightly altered form, as Chapter 3 in Cinéma profanes: Straub-Huillet, Harun Farocki, Pedro Costa: une constellation by Thomas Voltzenlogel. We kindly thank the Presses universitaires de Strasbourg for their permission in re-using this text.

Endnotes:

  1. Friedrich Hölderlin, La Mort d’Empédocle, trans. Danièle Huillet et Jean-Marie Straub (Toulouse: Éditions Ombres, 1987), pp. 49-69.
  2. Serge Daney, Microfilms : « Jean-Marie Straub, plus bavard que jamais », radio broadcast, France Culture, July 19, 1987.
  3. Jean-Marie Straub in Raymond (ed.), Rencontres, op. cit., p. 24.
  4. Jean-Marie Straub, “Inventer un autre monde”, in Dominique Villain, Le Travail du cinéma, vol. 1, (Saint-Denis: Presses Universitaires de Vincennes, 2012), p. 99.
  5. Gilles Deleuze, Cinéma 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988, p. 244.
  6. Serge Daney, “Une morale de la perception”, La Rampe (Paris: Cahiers du Cinéma, 1983), p. 126.
  7. Cézanne said: “Know in order to feel better, feel in order to know better.” Straub/Huillet followed the words of Cézanne, to whom they dedicated two films (Cézanne in 1989 and Une Visite au Louvre in 2003), based on conversations the painter had with Joachim Gasquet.
  8. “Entretien avec Jean-Marie Straub et Danièle Huillet”, Cahiers du cinéma 223 (August-September 1970), p. 55.
  9. “Conversation avec Jean-Marie Straub et Danièle Huillet (Moïse et Aaron)”, Cahiers du cinéma 258-259 (July-August 1975), p. 14.
  10. See Deleuze, Cinéma 2, op. cit., esp. 227-229.
  11. “It’s the light that works. Light escapes from man. That man can try to ‘work on the light’ is blasphemous. Light is what works on us, we don’t work on light. Particularly if you shoot outside without any lighting. For pity’s sake, strike this word from your vocabulary if you want to make films. Or the films would be clichés, a chain, a series, a cascade of clichés. You should be happy when the light arrives and surprises, and you say, “Look, that’s not what we were waiting for.” Jean-Marie Straub, “Inventer un autre monde”, op. cit., p. 101.
  12. Philippe Lafosse, L’Étrange Cas de Madame Huillet et Monsieur Straub (Paris: Ombres, 2007), p. 121.
  13. Danièle Huillet, “Comment ‘corriger’ la nostalgie? (à propos de Trop tôt, trop tard)”, in Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, Écrits (Paris: Independencia, 2012), p. 109.
  14. See André Bazin, “L’évolution du langage cinématographique”, Qu’est-ce que le cinéma? (Paris: Cerf, 2002), pp. 63-80, and Sergei Eisenstein, “Montage of Attractions, an Essay”, in Jay Leyda (ed.), The Film Senses (New York: Meridian, 1957), pp. 230-233.
  15. Alexander Kluge, “On Film and the Public Sphere”, New German Critique 25/26 (Autumn-Winter 1981-1982), pp. 210–211.
  16. Fernand Deligny, “Camérer”, Caméra/Stylo 4 (September 1983), repr. in Fernand Deligny, Œuvres (Paris: L’Arachnéen, 2007), p. 1745.
  17. Jean-Marie Straub, in Lafosse, L’Étrange Cas de Madame Huillet et Monsieur Straub, op. cit., p. 136.
  18. Bertolt Brecht, Écrits sur le théâtre vol. I (Paris: L’Arche, 1972), p. 332.
  19. Danièle Huillet in Raymond (ed.), Rencontres, op. cit., p. 26.
  20. Walter Benjamin, “What is Epic Theatre?”, in Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1968), p. 43.
  21. Bertolt Brecht, Écrits sur le théâtre vol. I, op. cit., p. 335 and Écrits sur le théâtre vol. II, p. 39. Emphasis added.
  22. Jean-Marie Straub, “Jean-Marie Straub, la résistance du cinéma: Bande-paroles du film Jean-Marie Straub, La Résistance du cinéma réalisé par Armando Ceste, 1991”, Dérives, http://www.derives.tv/Jean-Marie-Straub-La-Resistance-du.
  23. See Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? (London: Zero Books, 2009) and Annie Le Brun, Ce qui n’a pas de prix: Beauté, laideur et politique (Paris: Stock, 2018).
  24. Sigmund Freud, “The Uncanny”, in Writings on Art and Literature (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997), pp. 193-233, here pp. 195, 217.
  25. “In fact, the more we dissect with precision the types Brecht has created […
  26. Danièle Huillet, in Philippe Lafosse, L’Étrange Cas de Monsieur Straub et Madame Huillet, op. cit., p. 102.
  27. Giorgio Agamben, Infancy and History: On the Destruction of Experience (London: Verso, 2007), p. 96
  28. Giorgio Agamben, Enfance et histoire, Destruction de l’expérience et origine de l’histoire (Paris: Éditions Payot & Rivages, 2002), p. 171.
  29. Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, interviewed by François Albera, “Cinéma [et
  30. Jean-Marie Straub, in the film La Résistance du cinéma, by Armando Ceste (1991).
  31. Jean Borreil, “La fabrique du sujet héroïque”, in Jacques Rancière (ed.), La Politique des poètes (Paris: Albin Michel, 1992), p. 152.
  32. Robert Bresson, Notes on the Cinematograph, trans/ Jonathan Griffin (New York: NYRB, 1986), p. 38.

About The Author

Thomas Voltzenlogel teaches theory and dramartugy at the Haute École des Arts du Rhin and in the Department of Cinema at the University of Strasbourg. He published the monograph Cinéma profanes: Straub-Huillet, Harun Farocki, Pedro Costa: une constellation in 2018.