The Death Of Empedocles

  • 1986
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

Destroying any and all connection with narrative filmmaking, Straub and Huillet created a radically different type of film which exists without any of the baggage of entertainment, drama, camerawork, editing, or sound that one usually associates with film. Based verbatim on Holderlin's unfinished verse tragedy of 1798, "Der Tod des Empedokles," THE DEATH...read more

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Destroying any and all connection with narrative filmmaking, Straub and Huillet created a radically different type of film which exists without any of the baggage of entertainment, drama, camerawork, editing, or sound that one usually associates with film. Based verbatim on Holderlin's unfinished verse tragedy of 1798, "Der Tod des Empedokles," THE DEATH OF EMPEDOCLES is a reading of the story of the title Greek philosopher and statesman (c. 495-435 B.C.), who threw himself into the mouth of the volcanic Mount Etna as proof that he was a god. The plot (nearly undecipherable

unless you already know the Empedocles story) features a group of local statesman who accuse the seemingly divine Empedocles of blasphemy and drive him (along with his young, impressionable disciple) into exile. More than anything else, the Straub-Huillet team has created in this film a mesmerizing interplay of sounds, words, and visuals through minimalism. A character stands paralyzed in frame and delivers his lines in metric verse. Another character, detached from the first through editing and placed alone in frame, delivers his lines in the same manner. The two stand in robes

and sandals outdoors in rural Sicily. After perhaps 10 minutes, the scene shifts. The relief of a cut to a new scene is destroyed, however, when the viewer realizes it is the start of another 10-minute scene of dialog exchanges by isolated players. With selective subtitling translating only portions of the film, the English-speaking audience is swept into the sound of Holderlin's verse as rendered by Straub-Huillet's cast members, who recite their lines in a purposely stilted fashion. The film further defies commercialism by existing amorphously in four slightly different versions,

each using different takes, shots, and sounds from version to version. (In German; English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 1986
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Destroying any and all connection with narrative filmmaking, Straub and Huillet created a radically different type of film which exists without any of the baggage of entertainment, drama, camerawork, editing, or sound that one usually associates with film.… (more)

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