Le Genou d’Artemide (Artemide’s Knee). 2007. Italy/France. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub. Based on Dialogues with Leucò, by Cesare Pavese. With Andrea Bacci, Dario Marconcini. 35mm. In Italian; English subtitles. 26 min.
Mourning the death of his partner and collaborator Danièle Huillet, Straub finds tender mercy in music and nature. Out of the abyss, Kathleen Ferrier sings Gustav Mahler’s Songs of the Earth: The Farewell (which the composer wrote in 1909 after the death of his daughter) and Heinrich Schutz’s Lament on the Death of His Wife (1625). The landscape also provides solace: the mountain grove where Endymion pines for his beloved Artemis, “a wild thing, untouchable, mortal,” appears to embody the Japanese concept of *mono no aware*—a wistful acceptance of the fleeting beauty of things.
Le Streghe, Femmes entre elles (The Witches, Women among Themselves). 2008. France/Italy. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub. Based on Dialogues with Leucò, by Cesare Pavese. With Giovanna Giuliani, Giovanna Daddi. 35mm. In Italian; English subtitles. 21 min.
The enchantress Circe recounts to Leucò her attempts to bewitch and bed Odysseus. She talks about men and women, the human and the divine, and the brave hero who chooses to become neither a pig nor a God. In her adamantine repose, Circe also hints at the monotony of her own immortal fate, and contrasts it with the vibrating currents of life she so dearly craves and envies in Odysseus, with his longing for home, childhood, and love.
L’Inconsolable (The Inconsolable One). 2010. France. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub. Based on Dialogues with Leucò, by Cesare Pavese. With Andrea Bacci, Giovanna Daddi. In Italian; English subtitles. 12 min.
Returning from the forest of shades, a quietly defiant Orpheus tells a Bacchante it was free will, not destiny, which compelled him to cast the fatal gaze on his wife Eurydice, recognizing their love as a thing of the past and his own proper place in the world of living souls. A masterful series of camera shots reveals the Bacchante looking away in incredulity, horror, and betrayal.
La madre (The Mother ). 2011. Switzerland. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub. Based on Dialogues with Leucò, by Cesare Pavese. With Giovanna Daddi, Dario Marconcini. In Italian; English subtitles. 20 min.
“I am lost to the world….” (from Mahler’s 1901 Rückert-Lieder): In the sun-dappled Tuscan countryside, the boar hunter Meleager, having been murdered by his own mother to avenge the tragic accidental killing of his brother and uncle, engages in a melancholy conversation about fragility, resistance, and love with Hermes, who has taken female form.