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Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (1968)

Gustav Leonhardt , Christiane Lang , Jean-Marie Straub , Danièle Huillet  |  NR |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Gustav Leonhardt, Christiane Lang, Bob van Asperen, Bernd Weikl, Wolfgang Schöne
  • Directors: Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC
  • Language: German (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: German
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: New Yorker Video
  • DVD Release Date: December 20, 2005
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009WIE8O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,097 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach" on IMDb

Special Features

  • 20-minute "Making of" (from a historical TV documentary, featuring interviews with Jean-Marie Straub and Gustav Leonhardt)
  • DVD case booklet featuring essay by critic Armond White, note from Gustav Leonhardt, details on Bach selections in film.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A life through music - not your normal action drama January 6, 2006
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This deserves 5 stars; I merely put 4 stars to signify that your mileage will most definitely vary!

This movie, a DVD of a film of the late 60s, presents Johann Sebastian Bach through 2 avenues: (1) a (ficititious) diary (the Chronicle) of Anna Magdalena Bach, the composer's second wife, and (2) the music of J.S.Bach itself. It is in German, with English subtitles.

The Chronicle, if not authentic, has been created from actual letters and descriptions taken from writings of the time, so that the language and feel is utterly authentic. We have Bach reading from his own letters (which appear translated--in summary--in the subtitles, of course), and so the literary aspect of the movie: the script, that is, is creative in the sense that the screenplay recedes almost to the background. We hear Anna Magdalena, in voice-over, reading her journal, and we get an almost painful look at the beauty of Bach's music against the deaths of more than half his children. Infant mortality in those days were high, but it took its toll, surely.

The acting has been deliberately kept to a minimum. What they have tried to do is to create a pseudo-documentary, that achieves the goal of throwing us back into the 18th century, to show just how different life was, back then, and as part of it, how different music was.

It is well recognized that Bach's music, as well as those of his contemporaries (almost any music, in fact, I suppose) has to be understood in relation to the times in which it was written. While Bach's music can impress anyone, despite our ignorance of the cultural context of it, thousands will attest to the fact that the attempt to try to understand Bach's life and times is infinitely rewarding. Travel is broadening, and this movie is travel in time.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's About Music, Not Entertainment September 21, 2007
The gaunt, cerebral Gustav Leonhardt makes an utterly implausible Johann Sebastian Bach, until he sits down at the keyboard. Then there is something ineffably touching about watching him project his empathy with the long-dead composer who has dominated his own musical life. Leonhardt couldn't act but he surely could play.

I saw this movie at least thirty years ago, but I remember the impression it made on me vividly, which is perhaps the most ardent praise I could confer on any movie. I'm amazed and pleased to discover that it's been re-released.

The reviewer who complains that it's boring has to be taken seriously. I think that if you're not fanatically committed to the music of Bach, you will find the whole thing colorless and slow. And I know enough about Bach--his life, his family, his community in late Baroque Germany--to declare that this is hardly an accurate biographical portrayal. It is what it is, an eloquent expression of the director's and the performers' obsession with the greatest composer of history.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FILM ABOUT FILM March 21, 2006
By A fan
Some might think this previously unobtainable film to be an arcane (for some) cinematic exploration of Bach's musical career. Wrong! This painstakingly assembled piece of work is one of those few cases where feature-length film transcends the normal limitations of the medium. It is relentlessly pared down (I think there are no more than 200 edits during the whole film) and while this may seem austere / unforgivingly minimal it certainly encourages you to focus on the fact that THIS is a film that has been MADE (rather than having sprung into existence full-formed) - a film where each and every decision has been carefully and conscientiously weighed by the directors. Instead of mindlessly expecting a film to entertain you - like some kind of ferris wheel - try appreciating the MEDIUM for once. This great and unique film will help you to do so!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great masterpieces of cinema October 18, 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I will say up front, I am endlessly grateful to New Yorker Films for making this film available on DVD in the U.S.! I had never seen it before and was completely bowled over by what Straub and Huillet accomplished. In a way, it is actually quite straightforward and simple, though it is not a dramatic feature film narrative in the usual sense. The film operates on two levels--on one level, it is a "materialist" reconstruction of Bach's music, performed in period costumes, with period performance practices, in locations where they pieces were originally performed. Gustav Leonhard, the pioneer of period musical performance, plays Bach himself. We also see images presumably from everyday life in that period. On another level, juxtaposed to the music we hear a first-person narrative by Anna Magdalena Bach detailing the difficult circumstances of Bach's personal and professional life, including his financial hardships and deaths of some of his children. The film celebrates the genius of Bach's music, while making you see the world he lived in.

The entire film is done with incredible precision--every shot is placed and timed exactly right. You even get a feel for the ornate and cramped spaces of the churches where musicians originally performed some of Bach's cantatas. If you approach this film with an open mind, The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach is at once triumphant and tragic, a deeply moving and magisterial work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally found it! July 7, 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I saw this movie years ago in NYC and have been looking for it ever since. It is a unique production of the life of JS Bach. The director has done some things that are quite unique. I have learned this from a professional film reviewer.
1. The microphones are always were the cameras are. No "artificial" sound differences.
2. The cameras are always placed where a normal person would stand/sit. Hence, there are no "artificial" shots.
3. The pieces selected are played in their entirety so there are no cut offs or sound bits.

The narration is well done. Also this DVD offers interviews with the cast/crew that help in an appreciation of the film.
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