1971-1980ArthouseAustriaDanièle Huillet and Jean-Marie StraubPerformance

Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub – Moses und Aron (1975)


This is one of the best opera films ever, one of the few to intelligently juxtapose image and music. S and H’s minimal visual style allows Schoenberg’s maximal musical style to flourish, and there are even spots where we have a black screen, with music only. Filmed outdoors, in natural locations.

Schoenberg’s opera is one of the landmarks of 20th century music, and is heard and seen at its best in this performance.

‘With Moses und Aron, I have tried to destroy Stravinsky’s quote
saying that music was powerless to express the most abstract, the
most ordinary, the most concrete things.’ (Jean-Marie Straub)


Subtitles:English, French idx/sub


  1. “Moses and Aaron” by Jean-Marie Straub and
    Daniele Huillet is
    based on Arnold Schoenberg‘s opera, and a film at the same time unites with
    Schoenberg’s unique music in its depiction of Biblical events of the history of
    the Jewish people, and makes it the object of cinematographic analysis. The
    film is a double (critical) deconstruction – of the relationships between Moses
    and Aaron as political leaders and the Jewish people whom they lead into the future,
    and, on the other hand – of Schoenberg’s tendency to monumentalize and
    aggrandize these relationships by the music. Throughout
    the film Straub and Huillet examine the psychological roots of Old-Testamental
    theological imagination – the proclivity of people to interpret their socio-political
    motivations as a result of their special rapport with God. Mobilizing their
    visual imagery as instrument of analysis the directors show Moses as a
    paradigmatic case of a traditional totalitarian leader who uses despotic
    ideology to rule over the population, and they represent Aaron as a neo-totalitarian
    ruler, creator of a political system based on worshiping the Golden Calf. In
    “Moses and Aaron” we see the depiction of two totalitarian systems – one based
    on direct power and deploying pompous ideological imagination to help people to
    liberate themselves from their humiliated condition and to lead them towards
    national glory, and the other is financial totalitarianism when a real leader
    of the masses is the Golden Calf who instead of commanding the obedience seduces
    people into consumerist orgies.
    The conflict between Moses and Aaron becomes that of two equally
    totalitarian but differing systems that those who lived through the second part
    of 20th century had a chance to observe in the clash between Soviet
    Russia (a typical incarnation of traditional totalitarianism) and democracies of
    the West (which today, in 21st century, with their austerity
    programs for the populations become more and more resembling the despotic rule
    of the Golden Calf). The sacrifices to the Golden calf shown in the film in a rather
    elaborate way remind us today’s austerity programs in action and the growing
    unemployment, pauperization and cultural illiteracy as a result.
    The chorus
    through which people’s fears, hopes and contradictory moods express itself, is
    especially unforgettable as mediation between orchestra and the dramatic action
    and stays with us after watching the film not less than Moses’ character,
    Aaron’s mind and the intensity of Schoenberg music. Those
    today, who don’t just take life as it happens but try to grasp the meaning of existential
    situations and political events, will take from this film a lot of fertile impressions
    that’ll help them to better understand our historical past and the present. The
    film shows that history repeats and rejuvenates itself, and we better
    understand more about it not to be its victims but its participants. By Victor Enyutin

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