In eight shots filmed in an apartment in Paris, Cornelia Geiser recites verses from Pierre Corneille’s two Roman tragedies about power and intrigue, Horace
, followed by a reading of excerpts from Bertolt Brecht’s 1939 radio play The Trial of Lucullus
, a powerful war crimes recitative. The reciter bridges these texts from different eras, using Ancient Rome as a parable to denounce all abuses of power and the emergence of imperialist and fascist rule.
extended Straub and Huillet’s practice of textual archaeology and their interest in stratification. In this film they take Hölderlin’s German translation of Sophocles’ text of Antigone
as reworked politically by Bertolt Brecht, staging the play in the old theatre of Segesta in the highest peak of Mount Barbaro in Western Sicilia. Barton Byg wrote: ‘While WWII was Brecht’s contemporary reference, it is the First Gulf War here; Straub-Huillet keep Antigone’s confrontation with Creon entirely historical. Only the bracketing sounds of Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s music and a military helicopter gesture toward the present. But the film’s final text is Brecht’s warning in 1952 against those who prepare the wars of the future.’ Brecht wrote: ‘In Antigone the violence is explained by inadequacy. The war against Argos derives from mismanagement. Those who have been robbed have to look to robbery themselves. The undertaking exceeds the strength available. Violence splits the forces instead of welding them together; basic humanity, under too much pressure, explodes, scattering everything with it into destruction.’
This screening will be introduced by Jean Matthee.
Corneille – Brecht
, Dir: Jean-Marie Straub, France, 2009, MiniDV, colour, 26 min 66 sec., in French with English subtitles.
Die Antigone des Sophokles nach der Hölderlinschen Übertragung für die Bühne bearbeitet von Brecht 1948 (Suhrkamp Verlag)
, The Antigone of Sophocles after Hölderlin’s Translation Adapted for the Stage by Brecht 1948
, Dirs: Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, Germany, 1991, 35mm, colour, 100 min., in German with English subtitles.