Film Screening Einleitung zu Arnold Schoenbergs.... + Moses und Aron

Moses und Aron © BELVA Film

Thu, 14.03.2019


BFI Southbank

In 1929 Schoenberg wrote the music for an imaginary film, subtitling the composition with the words ‘threatening danger, fear, catastrophe’. Straub and Huillet use this as a starting point for their Marxist and anti-imperialist essay about the ‘intolerable present’, as critic Serge Daney has put it. Archival footage of the war and bombings in Vietnam, images of the dead of the Paris Commune and other documents are combined and edited together with a reading of two historical texts. One is a letter written in 1923 by Schoenberg to Wassily Kandinsky about the painter’s complicity with the anti-Semitic policies of the German government; the second is an extract from Bertolt Brecht’s speech to the International Congress in Defence of Culture in 1935, condemning anti-Semitism and denouncing the inextricable link between fascism and the barbarism of capitalism.
Moses and Aaron is an opera composed by Schoenberg to his own libretto between 1930 and 1932. The third act remained unfinished. The libretto tells the story of the calling of Moses, who lacked the gift of oratory, to lead his enslaved people to the Promised Land, his conflict with his brother, Aaron, and the people’s descent into idolatry and ritual sacrifice. The film offers a political reading of Schoenberg’s work, focusing on the confrontation between Moses, Aaron and the choir, who according to Straub, represents the people. The film makes visible the histories of colonialism, migration and exile, emphasizing the struggle of the people against oppression, the passage from polytheism to monotheism, and the conflict between word and image (‘Thus I too have fashioned an image, false, as an image must invariably be’). The opera was filmed live and in direct sound with pre-recorded orchestral music in the outdoor setting of the Alba Fucens amphitheatre in southern Italy. The film is dedicated to filmmaker and political activist Holger Meins.
The screening will be introduced by Sam McAuliffe, Lecturer in Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London.
Einleitung zu Arnold Schoenbergs Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene, Introduction to Arnold Schoenberg’s ‘Accompaniment to a Cinematographic Scene’, Dirs: Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, West Germany, 1972, 16mm/DCP, colour and b&w, 15 min., in German with English subtitles.
Moses und Aron, Moses and Aaron, Dirs: Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, Austria/West Germany/France/Italy, 1974, 35mm (two shots in 16mm)/DCP, colour, 105 min., in German with /English subtitles.

Presented as part of The Films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet