‘is a film in which the oppression of women is very clear’ (Huillet). It begins with a documentary shot of a Munich red-light district at night. All other elements in the film respond to this shot in a dialectical way: the music of Bach, the staging of the play Pains of Youth
(1929) by Ferdinand Bruckner, condensed by Straub and performed by the ensemble of the Munich action–theater, including Rainer Werner Fassbinder, as well as two poems by the Spanish mystic poet Juan de la Cruz told by the protagonists of a love story shot as a film noir.
For their first film shot in Italy, Straub and Huillet adapted Othon
, a lesser-known late historical political play written by the French dramatist Pierre Corneille, inspired by Tacitus’s Histories, first performed in 1664. The play, set in Ancient Rome during the last days of the short lived rule of Emperor Galba, deals with the court intrigues and political machinations of the ruling class. Amongst this set the opportunistic and ambitious senator Othon plots his way to power amidst the intricacies of tragic, (un)requited and impossible love. Straub defined the film’s subject as an intrigue about ‘the decadence of the Roman Empire… and about the absence of the people in politics, which persists to this day.’ The film was shot in 16mm on the Palatine Hill with contemporary Rome in the background. Here, a group of performers, mostly amateurs, including Straub himself, give new life to Corneille’s work, bringing language to the fore, reading through the veins of the text as they recite its lines vertiginously, like ‘tightrope walkers’ (Straub).
Der Bräutigam, die Komödiantin und der Zuhälter
, The Bridegroom, the Actress and the Pimp, West Germany, Dirs: Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 1968, 35mm/DCP, b&w, 23 min., in German with English subtitles.
Les Yeux ne peuvent pas en tout temps se fermer ou Peut-être qu’un jour Rome se permettra de choisir à son tour (Othon)
, Eyes Do Not Want to Close at All Times, or, Perhaps One Day Rome will Permit Herself to Choose in her Turn (Othon), Dirs: Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, West Germany, 1969, 16mm/DCP, colour, 88 min., in French with English subtitles