O somma luce. 2009. France. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub. Based on The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri. With Giorgio Passerone. In Italian; English subtitles. 18 min.
In darkness, we hear a recording of the scandalous 1954 debut performance of Edgar Varèse’s revolutionary Déserts at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Then, in a different sort of Elysian Field, we hear a recitation of Canto XXXIII from The Inferno, a final vision of the Divine Light, in which Dante apprehends the will and desire of man in perfect harmony with the love of God. . 18 min.
Schakale und Araber (Jackals and Arabs). 2011. Switzerland. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub. Based on a short story by Franz Kafka. With Barbara Ulrich, Giorgio Passerone, Jubarite Semaran. In German; English subtitles. 10 min.
Franz Kafka’s enigmatic animal story, written in 1917 on the eve of the Balfour Declaration, has been interpreted in myriad ways and embraced and rejected in equal measure by Arabs and Jews of divergent persuasions. Straub’s abridged (but no less elusive) retelling has fascinating affinities with his and Danièle Huillet’s interpretation of Kafka’s Amerika in Class Relations.
Un conte de Michel de Montaigne (A Tale by Michel de Montaigne). 2013. France/Switzerland. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub. Based on Essais, book II, chapter 6, “De l’exercitation,” by Michel de Montaigne. With Barbara Ulrich. In French; English subtitles. 34 min.
Left for dead in a freak horse accident, Montaigne reflects on many things, among them the nature of consciousness and the soul, reason and automatism, waking and dreaming, the self and the other.
Dialogue d’ombres (Dialogue of Shadows). 2013. France/Switzerland. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub. Based on the book by Georges Bernanos. With Cornelia Geiser, Bertrand Brouder. In French; English subtitles. 28 min.
Straub’s testament of love was made seven years after the 2006 death of his partner and collaborator Danièle Huillet, and nearly 60 years after they met in Paris and planned to adapt this short story by Georges Bernanos (the author of Diary of a Country Priest and Mouchette). In the film, two lovers are separated by physical distance but intimately bound by Bach’s Cantata 140 (“Sleepers Wake”), a conspiring of their own voices, and a mutual sense of wounded pride and yearning for “the supreme grace…to love ourselves in all simplicity.”