Einleitung zu Arnold Schönbergs Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielscene (Introduction to Arnold Schoenberg’s “Accompaniment to a Cinematographic Scene”). 1972. West Germany. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet. Based on letters by Arnold Schoenberg and a speech by Bertolt Brecht. With Straub, Huillet, Günter Peter Straschek, Peter Nestler. In German; English subtitles. 15 min.
In 1923, sensing the gathering storm of “fear, danger, and catastrophe” in Germany, the composer Arnold Schoenberg wrote a devastatingly prescient and heartbreaking letter to his former friend, the painter Wassily Kandinsky. Schoenberg aligned his fate with that of all Jews, knowing they were soon to face exile or violent death. Straub-Huillet’s film, a recitation both of Schoenberg’s letter and Bertolt Brecht’s 1935 speech to the International Congress in Defense of Culture, is a fierce condemnation of anti-Semitism, German crimes against humanity, and the barbaric war machine of capitalism.
Moses und Aron (Moses and Aaron). 1974. Austria/West Germany/France/Italy. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet. Based on the book by Arnold Schoenberg. With Günter Reich, Louis Devos, Austrian Radio Choir, Austria Radio Symphony Orchestra. In German; English subtitles. 105 min.
Straub-Huillet filmed Schoenberg’s unfinished opera in the Roman amphitheater of Alba Fucense. Taking nearly 15 years to finance, Moses and Aaron was based on their rigorous consideration and questioning of Biblical and archeological history, particularly with respect to the collective memory—passed down and transcribed over hundreds of years, however inaccurately—of the Egyptian enslavement of the Hebrews and the Exodus. Straub-Huillet’s concern is with the myth of human progress, and the transition from polytheism to monotheism. Lost in the process, they suggest, was a kind of tenderness and rootedness in nature, a traumatic absence into which a new kind of violence was born.