Too Early/Too Late is a diptych shot in France and Egypt in 1980 concerning the relation between history, class struggle and landscape.
As Huillet wrote, ‘This is not “fiction”, but what is called “documentary”, even if this way of documenting is, I believe, new (though it has precedents: for example, La Sortie de l’usine Lumière) – no “restrictive” narration, no actors. What is recounted: struggles, revolts, defeats, delays and anticipations, statistics; what is represented: history, topography, geography, geology, light, lights, wind and clouds, land (transformed and worked by men), traces – erased or still visible – and sky (lots of sky)’. In the first part of the film, Huillet reads excerpts from a letter written by Friedrich Engels about the impoverishment of French peasants on the eve of the Revolution of 1789. In the second part, shot in the Egyptian landscape, the writer Bahgat Elnadi reads from his book on the history of anti-colonial resistance and class struggle in Egypt, which he co-authored with Adel Rifaat under the pseudonym of Mahmoud Hussein.
Europa 2005, 27 Octobre (Europa 2005, 27 October)
is a ciné-tract, a pamphlet shot in video responding to the death of two young men – Bouna Traore, 15, and Zyed Benna, 17 – electrocuted in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois when they were escaping from the police. Their deaths sparked three weeks of uprisings across France. In two camera pans repeated five times, the film documents the dead-end location of this atrocity, thus making evident the violence and iniquity of the authorities.
Huillet and Straub had planned to film (Schakale und Araber) Jackals and Arabs
in the 1980s in the Egyptian desert while they were filming Too Early/Too Late
. Years later Straub returned to this project of filming the short story by Franz Kafka, a pessimist allegory of Arab-Jewish relations written in 1917, right after the signing of the Balfour Declaration. Filmed on video in a Parisian apartment, two performers, Barbara Ulrich and Giorgio Passerone, forcefully recite the text creating a tension matched by Straub’s incisive editing, cutting into the image like a scalpel.
Too Early/Too Late
, Dirs: Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, France / Egypt, 1981, 16mm / Digital, colour, 100 mins., English version.
Europa 2005, 27 Octobre
, Dirs: Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, France/Switzerland, 2006, MiniDV, colour, 10 mins. 30 secs., no dialogue.
Schakale und Araber
, Jackals and Arabs
, Dirs: Jean-Marie Straub, France/Italy/Switzerland, 2011, MiniDV, colour, 10 mins. 43 secs., German with English subtitles.
Presented as part of The Films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet