The event is part of a weekend dedicated to Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet’s engagement with the work of the German philosopher and poet Friedrich Hölderlin. When you purchase a ticket for this event you will receive a promotional code to enjoy a discount of 50% on any Hölderlin event at the Goethe-Institut on 12.4. and 13.4. Further events are the screenings of O Somma Luce + Cézanne..., a lecture by theatre expert Patrick Primavesi and the screenings of Der Bräutigam... + Die Antigone... on 13 April.
Friedrich Hölderlin’s drama The Death of Empedocles
is a tragedy on the death of the pre-Socratic Greek thinker and poet Empedocles of Acragas, composed in three incomplete versions from 1798 to 1799 and never published during the poet’s lifetime. The filmmakers are faithful to the text of Hölderlin’s first version: the first act deals with the political dispute and banishment of Empedocles from the city and the second with the philosopher’s conflict with the gods, his argument about the value of life and his decision to end his life in the volcanic crater of Mount Etna. After eighteen months of rehearsals with the remarkable actors cast for the film, the filmmakers staged this ‘oratorio without music’ in exterior locations in Sicily using direct sound and the existing surrounding light. They edited four different versions of the film using different takes of the same shots. All the elements at play in the film, words, sounds, the gestures, light and nature, exert a force and tension that gives this film its telluric and vivid strength. Straub has often identified his vision of the world and his understanding of communism with Empedocles’ utopian vision of a new world. Straub said: ‘Away with information science, bureaucracy, management, atomic power plants, chemistry, machines, propadæutics, sociology, political science. Let us try to start from scratch, before it is too late.’
Two years after The Death of Empedocles
, Straub and Huillet filmed the third version of Hölderlin’s verse drama on a clearing on the foothill of the Etna under the burning sun of Sicily. This film was given the title Black Sin.
We find Empedocles, already far from the people and the politics of the city, nearing his self-sacrifice, debating the conflict between the all-nurturing nature and the destructive destroying impetus of civilisation, with his loyal disciple Pausanias and the phantasm of Manes, his former teacher. According to David Farrell Krell, this third version of the tragedy ‘becomes a meditation on the rise and fall of civilisations and historical epochs within “the ferment of time”, not a depiction of the life and death of individuals.’ Straub saw in the text of Hölderlin, ‘the hope, but also the threat that hangs over us.’ Danièle Huillet, sitting on the dark volcanic earth evokes the ‘new world’ embodying this mixed sense of hope and fear. Straub, said: ‘The Death of Empedokles
is, as Jean Narboni said, a Film of Explosion. And the second one, Black Sin, is a Film of Implosion. This is also true for the politics. Politics is no longer in the events, it is in the character of Empedokles, it only remains as a memory, totally internalised.’
Black Sin will be shown on a new 35mm print.
Der Tod des Empedokles oder: Wenn dann der Erde Grün von neuem euch erglänzt
, The Death of Empedocles, or When the Green of the Earth Will Glisten for You Anew
, Dirs: Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, West Germany, 1987, 35mm/DCP, colour, 132 min., in German with English subtitles.
, Black Sin, Dirs: Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, West Germany, 1988, 35mm, colour, 42 min., in German with English subtitles.
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Presented as part of The Films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet