Les yeux ne veulent pas en tout temps se fermer ou Peut-être qu’un jour Rome se permettra de choisir à son tour (Othon)

Eyes Do Not Want to Close at All Times or Perhaps One Day Rome Will Permit Herself to Choose in Her Turn (Othon)
Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet
Federal Republic of Germany, Italy 1970

24.02.2020 11:00 Eng. subtitles Akademie der Künste
01.03.2020 20:15 Eng. subtitles Delphi Filmpalast

88 min. French.

Based on a play by Pierre Corneille, Straub & Huillet’s film is about Othon, who must forsake his bride and marry the niece of the current ruler in order to become emperor. The story is narrated by way of largely static arrangements of one, two or three people before scenes of present-day Rome, complete with traffic noise. Eschewing conventional intonation, the dialogues become a torrent which sweeps details away, even as the theme of the individual and society still remains apparent at its core. Les yeux ne veulent pas en tout temps se fermer ou Peut-être qu’un jour Rome se permettra de choisir à son tour (Othon) is a film of discrepancies which are negotiated between screen and audience in aesthetic terms: between seeing and understanding, between past and present, theatre and cinema, politics and feelings. (ab)

Jean-Marie Straub was born in Metz, France in 1933. In 1951, he started studying in Strasbourg and Nancy, and ran a film club in Metz on the side. Straub went to Paris in the mid-1950s, where he met his future wife Danièle Huillet. That was the start of a close collaboration. In 1958, they moved to Germany and made their first short film, Machorka-Muff, which premiered at the Oberhausen Short Film Festival in 1963. From the late 1960s onwards, Straub and Huillet lived in Italy, where they made their first colour film, Les yeux ne veulent pas en tout temps se fermer ou Peut-être qu’un jour Rome se permettra de choisir à son tour (Othon)(1970). Their subsequent films were primarily literary adaptations. From the mid-2000s onwards, they mainly made short films. Since the death of his wife in 2006, Straub has continued to make films on his own.

Danièle Huillet was born in Paris in 1936. After finishing school, she lived in Paris. In the mid-1950s she met her future husband Jean-Marie Straub, with whom she worked closely from then on. In 1958, they moved to Germany and made their first short film, Machorka-Muff, which premiered at the Oberhausen Short Film Festival in 1963. From the late 1960s onwards, Straub and Huillet lived in Italy, where they made their first colour film, Les yeux ne veulent pas en tout temps se fermer ou Peut-être qu’un jour Rome se permettra de choisir à son tour (Othon) (1970). Their subsequent films were primarily literary adaptations. From the mid-2000s onwards, they mainly made short films. Huillet died in 2006.

Introduction to the film’s television broadcast

(…) The text spoken in the film is the complete original French text by Pierre Corneille; the actors spent three months reading, learning, rehearsing and practising it, and it was then recited by heart – shot on site over a period of four weeks, always synchronously with the picture. (…)
If not all too many people change the channel during the film, then we – you as consumer and I as producer – will already have won a minor victory over stupidity, over contempt, over the pimps of the film industry who, out of their own contempt and stupidity, think: films are never stupid enough for the audience.

(Jean-Marie Straub. Filmkritik, No. 1/71, p. 12 ff.)

Rome and capitalism. A talk with Jean-Marie Straub (…)

Klaus Eder: Do you think your film can bring Corneille closer to the French-speaking audience unfamiliar with him?

Yes, that is my dream; that is the utopia I believe in. The films I have shot up to now were dreamt and conceived for a German-speaking audience. In the same way, the Corneille film makes sense only for a French-speaking audience. That it might someday be shown on German television pleases me; but direct contact with the German audience is not possible. Unless the film is destroyed by being dubbed. And even with subtitles, there is still a barrier. I believe that, today, films have to be made for a specific audience – that’s the path I’m taking. One has to choose a specific language. Esperanto was a dream of the bourgeoisie. (…)

Eder: How much of Corneille is in your film?

The language, the five-act structure – in this case, in five rolls of film. My contribution are the shots I added within each act, and the way I edited the texts.

Eder: You don’t interpret Corneille?

No. I didn’t want to exploit Corneille. That would be a kind of imperialism: to take and exploit whatever we think we can use from pieces of the past. I make an entire piece available to the audience and I say, See, this is how it is today, and that is how it was for the Romans, that is how it continues, that is how the traffic continues, the capitalists today are just as unable to manage it all. Additionally, one hears Corneille’s text and puts the relationships together. (…)

Wolfgang Limmer: You have made this film now in a specific environment under specific conditions, conditions that have a certain effect on the direction of this film. How does the film relate to this reality?

It is a film about a small part of a class that has power, and it is shown in such a way that one has the impression that everything must disappear, must be swept away. First. Second, it is a film about the presence in politics of the people. Third, it is a film about how everything should be completely different. At the beginning of the film, the camera pans across the city, over the capitol as it looks today, over the tenements in which people live today, then to a tree and down to a black hole, a cave. One approaches this hole, and the text comes: “Eyes do not want to close at all times, or perhaps one day Rome will permit herself to choose in her turn.” Communists hid weapons in this cave during the war. (…)

Limmer: Do you regard your film as a Marxist film?

I don’t know. I’d say the Bach film was a Marxist film; but as method, which has nothing to do with ideology. I think the Corneille film is a communist film. In the sense that it hopes for a utopia.

(Interview: Klaus Eder and Wolfgang Limmer. Fernsehen und Film, Velber b. Hannover, No. 10/70, Infoblatt No. 14, 1. Internationales Forum des jungen Films, Berlin 1971)

Production company Janus Film- und Fernsehen-Vertriebsgesellschaft (Frankfurt am Main, Germany). Directed by Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet. Screenplay Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet adapted from 'Othon' by Pierre Corneille. Cinematography Ugo Piccoune, Renato Berta. Sound Louis Hochet, Lucien Moreau. With Adriano Aprà (Othon), Anne Brumagne (Plautina), Ennio Lauricella (Galba), Olimpia Carlisi (Camilla), Anthony Pensabene (Vinius), Jubarita Semaran (Laco), Jean-Claude Biette (Marcianus), Leo Mingrone (Albinus), Gianna Mingrone (Albiane), Marilù Parolini (Flavia), Eduardo De Gregorio (Atticus), Sergio Rossi (Rutilkus), Sebastian Schadhauser (Erster Soldat), Jacques Fillion (Zweiter Soldat).

Films

Jean-Marie Straub: 1962: Machorka-Muff (18 min., Retrospective 2002). 1965: Nicht versöhnt oder es hilft nur Gewalt, wo Gewalt herrscht (53 min., Retrospective 2002). 1967: Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach / Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (94 min, Retrospective 1990 and 2010). 1972: Geschichtsunterricht (88 min.). 1975: Moses und Aron (110 min.). 1979: Von der Wolke zum Widerstand (104 min.). 1983: Klassenverhältnisse / Class Relations (130 min., Competition 1984). 1986: Der Tod des Empedokles – oder: Wenn dann der Erde Grün von neuem euch erglänzt / The Death Of Empedocles (132 min., Competition 1987). 1990: Cézanne (65 min., Forum 1991). 1991: Antigone (100 min., Panorama 1992, Panorama (Special Screenings) 2000). 1997: Von heute auf morgen. Oper in einem Akt von Arnold Schönberg (62 min.). 1999: Sicilia! (66 min.). 2001: Arbeiter, Bauern (123 min.). 2006: Quei loro incontri (68 min.). 2014: À propos de Venise (23 min.). 2017: Où en êtes-vous, Jean-Marie Straub? (7 min.).

Danièle Huillet: 1962: Machorka-Muff (18 min., Retrospective 2002). 1965: Nicht versöhnt oder es hilft nur Gewalt, wo Gewalt herrscht (53 min., Retrospective 2002). 1972: Geschichtsunterricht (88 min.). 1975: Moses und Aron (110 min.). 1979: Von der Wolke zum Widerstand (104 min.). 1983: Klassenverhältnisse / Class Relations (130 min., Competition 1984). 1986: Der Tod des Empedokles – oder: Wenn dann der Erde Grün von neuem euch erglänzt / The Death Of Empedocles (132 min., Competition 1987). 1990: Cézanne (65 min., Forum 1991). 1991: Antigone (100 min., Panorama 1992, Panorama (Special Screenings) 2000). 1997: Von heute auf morgen. Oper in einem Akt von Arnold Schönberg (62 min.). 1999: Sicilia! (66 min.). 2001: Arbeiter, Bauern (123 min.). 2006: Quei loro incontri (68 min.).

Photo: © BELVA Film