‘There was a group of people arranged in a semicircle on a hill, on the lawn of the Père Lachaise cemetery, north of Paris, where there are the great memorials of the concentration camps: Ravensbrück, Auschwitz... it is in the corner of the cemetery where you can guess something about the city. Under this hill are buried the last members of the Paris Commune, who were shot in that same place. In the film they are sitting in a semicircle. A semicircle like in the hemicycle of the Greek theatre’ (Straub). Titled after a line by French historian Jules Michelet about the Commune, the film Toute révolution est un coup de dés (Every Revolution Is a Throw of the Dice)
is a collective recitation of Stéphane Mallarmé’s typographical poem ‘A Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance', and was shot in front of the Communards’ wall.
For Les Yeux ne peuvent pas en tout temps se fermer
...(Eyes Do Not Want to Close at All Times
...) , Straub and Huillet's first film shot in Italy, they adapted Othon
, a lesser-known late historical and political play written by the French dramatist Pierre Corneille, inspired by Tacitus’s Histories
and 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 and the opportunism of the ambitious senator Othon as he plots his way to power, amidst the intricacies of tragic, (un)requited and impossible love. Straub defined the film 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, where 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”.
Toute révolution est un coup de dés
, Every Revolution Is a Throw of the Dice, Dirs: Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, France, 1977, 35mm/DCP, colour, 10 min., French 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., French with English subtitles.
Presented as part of The Films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet