LULU / PANDORA'S BOX
- DAPHNIS AND CHLOE
- THE FUGITIVE KIND
- THE TESTAMENT OF ORPHEUS
- HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS
- YOUNG APHRODITES
- PROMETHEUS FROM THE VISEVICE ISLAND
- SANDRA OF A THOUSAND DELIGHTS
- THE GOLDEN THING
- THE TRAVELLING PLAYERS
- EURIDICE BA 2037
- A DREAM OF PASSION
- CLASH OF THE TITANS
- THE YEARS OF THE BIG HEAT
- ENIOCHUS - THE CHARIOTEER
- EDIPO ALCADE
- THAT'S LIFE
- BLADE RUNNER
- MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA
- PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN
- HERACLES AND THE QUEEN OF LYDIA
- BLACK ORPHEUS
- JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS
- ŌĒÅ GORGON
- OEDIPUS REX
- ŌĒÅ ILLIAC PASSION
- THE CANNIBALS
- NOTES FOR AN AFRICAN ORESTEIA
- FOR ELECTRA
- PROMETHEUS IN THE SECOND PERSON
- VOYAGE TO CYTHERA
- ULYSSES' GAZE
- ŌĒÅ MATRIX
- O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
Germany Š France, 1992
by: Jean-Marie Straub, Danile Huillet. Screenplay: Jean-Marie Straub,
Danile Huillet, based on a text by Bertolt Brecht, based on the
Sophocles tragedy. Director of Photography: William Lubtchansky.
Film Editor: Jean-Marie Straub, Danile Huillet. Cast: Astrid Ofner
(Antigone), Ursula Ofner (Ismene), Werner Rehm (Creon), Stephan Wolf-Schonburg
(Haemon), Albert Hetterla (Teiresias), Lars Studer (guard), Mario
di Mattia (child), Michael Knig (messenger), Ligbart Schwarz (servant),
Hans Diehl, Kurt Radeke, Michel Maassen, Rainer Philippi (choros).
Production: Regina Ziegler Produktion (Berlin), Peripheria, Pierre
Grise Productions (Paris), CNC. Duration: 100 min. Colour.
Antigone, daughter to Oedipus, opposes tyrant
of Thebes, CreonÕs edict that her brother PolyniceÕs body remain
unburied, because he had betrayed the city. She secretly buries
the body but is arrested and condemned to be shut away in a cave.
Haemon, CreonÕs son and AntigoneÕs fianc, objects to his fatherÕs
decision and curses him. The gods ultimately turn against Creon,
who is informed that Haemon committed suicide at the feet of the
By Cdric Anger
Straub and HuilletÕs aim in Antigone is radically different from
PasoliniÕs in Oedipus. Here the issue is not to reproduce the
sensation of primitive violence expressed in the myth, nor the
incorporation of biographical information in the legend, but
to revive the spirit and the original conditions of SophoclesÕ
play in the setting of the ruins of the Segeste theatre in Sicily.
At the centre of the film, there is first a tree that we sense had a hard time
surviving the winter. The moss is dry and the leaves yellowed by the sun. The
mushroom sprouting at the roots indicates the age of the tree. It is, in other
words, a tree that Straub went to the trouble of observing and then filming.
This is something few directors do anymore as most of them operate more and more
like Ōparachutists', filming without taking the trouble to look. The mechanical
eye of the camera cannot imitate the trembling and blinking of the human eye.
We must look; we see and show what we have seen; we must spend time in the shot
locations and get to know even the merest pebble in order to film; we must let
the elements of nature sweep us away and render the taste of the soil and sunlight.
This is what the Straubs (Jean-Marie and his wife and co-director Danile Huillet)
did, in tireless dedication to a give-and-take with Nature. When they arrive
on a location, they do not limit themselves to a cursory glance; on the contrary,
they stop at every detail (lighting, contrast) and retain only the effects. Straub
chooses the impressions he wants to create and puts aside anything that is useless
to him. He is an incisive observer of his chosen locationÕs reality and in order
to better perceive things, he limits himself to specific impressions. For what
matters most in film are the details and the reality of landscape is nothing
more than the sum of these details. It is not difficult for someone to tell when
a cinematographer has gone to the trouble of looking around him: things unfamiliar
to others suddenly seem familiar. This is where the impression we get of Antigone
springs from: that we see a tree for the first time. The creation of a shot for
a film director is what the left hook is to the boxer: it is a matter of distancing.
ItÕs a matter of ethics too, because Straub is well aware that you cannot film
a tree or anything else if you donÕt take the time to look at it and make it
come alive in the proper way. In reality, the question Straub poses is a simple
one: where to place the camera? At what distance should it be placed from people
and objects> this distance is the key difference between eroticism and pornography
and Antigone must be viewed erotically when in her last moments the wind billows
her robe, revealing her naked calf and the pores of her sunburnt skin.
Distance, a feature of space, guides Straub to use it as his springboard in respecting
the ruins of the ancient theatre. And for the director, ŌorganisingÕ space means
finding the perfect spot to film a scene that specific point from which we can
film everything without cutting out anything to render the sense of the actors,
the air between them without changing the axis. Economy of angle (there are only
two slight zoom-ins in Antigone) is the driving force behind StraubÕs extensive
research. He had to make all his previous films to arrive at this point. He had
to make Czanne to be able to shoot the angles of Antigone. There is not a single
ugly shot in Antigone, not only because he substituted Mount Saint-Victoire with
the ruins of Segeste, but because he "built" his frameshots one by
one, measuring how much sky and how much air over the heads of his actors there
was according to the action, the abatement and the intensity.
Yet, we must point out that Straub does not measure the sky in the sense of the
anthologist. Every inch he suggests is significant because all the characters
in Antigone are not more important than the rocks, the tree or the light. If
it is true that every shot expresses and contains the directorÕs view of the
world, then we must directly add that in StraubÕs kingdom there is no man. Man
will never be the centre of the universe, that is, the centre of the shot. Antigone
is not an anthropocentric film. Like Renoir, thus Straub firmly believes that
the world is a total. Consequently, he holds a profound respect for any living
thing. Straub exclusively films the ŌenvironmentÕ and man in his universe is
just one of the elements of this environment. It is not unusual for a character
to exit the frame, while we remain there watching. There are no empty frames
in Straub. The passion for observation leads him to the perpetuation of the tree
and his respect for the surroundings will make him never cut a shot while a breeze
blows or a bird sings. There are shots that must be extended, that must be allowed
to take their time.
Thus, all the scenes in Antigone aim at seizing (i.e. precisely recording) anything
that can be seen or heard, ranging from the wind rustling the leaves and blowing
across the microphones to the light that the director observes in all its manifestations
and the shadows of the clouds caressing the cheek like a veil. The sensuality
is natural and if the light in Antigone is perhaps the most beautiful we have
ever seen, this is because when darkness approaches, Straub turns off his cameras.
Sound is captured in much the same way. The authenticity f sound is a religion
for Straub. The sound must be that which is recorded on location and Straub prefers
a mediocre sound that is recorded at the same time as the image to the perfection
of sound added later in the studio. As the director refuses to dub the voices,
the film captures and records for eternity the sigh or flutter in the young girlÕs
voice: whatever is impossible to reproduce. For in Antigone the bodies live more
through the voice Š the variations, the intensity, the articulation Š than through
their movements. It is not words that bring them to life; it is their articulation.
And we rarely find this sense in cinema, that the actors learn to inhale their
text at the same moment they recite it. In Antigone, the bodies move little.
Straub does not, however, impose complete immobility. He may in fact be afraid
of it since the presence of the wind is always felt, incessantly tousling the
hair and ballooning the robes of the actors. The bodies are immobile Š without
posing Š like the tree and they too seem rooted to the ground.
In this way this natural Antigone is reunited with the ancient spirit without
SophoclesÕ play losing its timeliness for one minute (wars, despots and death
still exist). It was re-interpreted first by Hlderlin and then by Brecht. After
the two Empedocles (The Death of Empedocles and Black Sin) Antigone is StraubÕs
first female protagonist. In political tragedy men do not have the leading role;
it is the turn of the young woman with the Ōdead spiritÕ to lead the dance, to
learn everything and to die. The beauty of SophoclesÕ work did not stop it from
shedding light on the discord that rips the world apart and the myth of Antigone
takes on new life every time humanity comes face to face with great trials.
From the article "Quatre aventures de la tragdie" that
in the special publication for the Thtres au cinma
event, Bobini 1995