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Moses and Aaron

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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(Dec 13, 2011)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Moses receives the summons from God but cannot communicate the idea of a single, invisible deity to the Jewish people. Moses and Aaron is both a faithful adaptation of Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone opera and a radical film experiment by Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet, long esteemed as the most uncompromising voice in modern European cinema. Their style is minimal and meticulous, resulting in a work of great simplicity and power.

Review

A visual counterpoise to Schoenberg's complex score. No production... has ever made one hear it so keenly. --Allen Shawn, FILM COMMENT

Beautifully captured. Subversive. The deeper that I delve into its textures, the richer it becomes. --Jonathan Rosenbaum, SIGHT & SOUND

Magnificent. Superb cinema... deeply rewarding... I would put it together with the ravishing Ingmar Bergman Magic Flute. --Roger Greenspun, SOHO WEEKLY NEWS

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Gunter Reich, Louis Devos
  • Directors: Daniele Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: New Yorker Video
  • DVD Release Date: December 13, 2011
  • Run Time: 107 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001DDBDDQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,318 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Moses and Aaron" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Arnold Schoenberg admitted that his stage direction was unrealizable and gave up any hope of seeing the opera staged. After all, where are we going to find an illusionist-tenor who can perform three biblical miracles on stage? How about staging Four Naked Virgins copulating with the Golden Calf? Even though I generally prefer opera staged instead of filmed, in this case the film version at least has a legitimate claim as a viable alternative. This alternative is here brilliantly realized by the legendary filmmaking duo Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet.

Anyone who knows anything about this duo's films will notice their signature characteristics here: frequent long and immobile shots, rigid and "geometric" camera movements, rigorous and intellectual style etc.. This is not a film for entertainment, nor was it intended to be. For example, even the orgy scene is shot from a certain emotional distance, composed with stylized movements and frames. This austere approach works well for me, and I suspect for Arnold Schoenberg as well since he never meant for this opera to be anything but uncompromising and soul-searching piece of "high art" (instead of a stimulant of senses). Note that this film includes (part of) unfinished Act III, in the form of dialogues between Moses and Aron without music. (*1)

The austere video is matched by the austere musical performance, here conducted by Michael Gielen (Schoenberg's son-in-law) with Chor und Sinfonieorchester des Österreichischen Rundfunks (ORF). At times, the chorus sounds a bit underrehearsed, but only slightly. Both Günter Reich's strong Moses and Louis Devos's eloquent Aron are superb.
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Format: DVD
I had an opportunity to view this film of Schoenberg's elusive and problematic opera on a theatre screen way back in the late 1970s. As an undergrad music student, I took it upon myself to attend the Art Institute of Chicagos series of opera on film, and this was one of the offerings. Unfamiliar with both the opera and its music, I recall this as being an alien experience, one that would require a second hearing/viewing. The recording used as the soundtrack was released on records/CDs (on Phillips) and I was able to better acquaint myself with Schoenberg's score. My memory of the film is less acute, but I remember the visual approach as minimalist, timeless in a Pasolini-type mode, and with very little movement, perhaps the better to call more attention to the complicated score rather than opulent visuals (the director could have gone "crazy" in depicting the golden calf orgy, but that is avoided). This is usually NOT the approach of opera on film (rather than a filmed staged performance). Many times the singers/performers stand camera side, or front and center and deliver their lines. Interestingly the costumes/decors are biblical-epic realistic. Unliked staged versions of the opera, the film resolves Schoenberg's unfinished final scene of the opera by having the text spoken, which gives the film an anticlimatic feel after the violent/graphic music of the orgy. It's noted that this film has been held up for release as its producer, New York Films, has gone out of business. I hope that another enterprising company might pick up the release of this film on DVD. Kultur? Arthaus? Anyone?
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
You either love this sort of production or you hate it. I loved it although it is very austere, 'spare' minimalist...call it what you will. But it's attraction is that it focuses everything on the physical setting and, most of all, the wonderful music.
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Format: DVD
I hope that this DVD edition might solve a problem that haunts every single presentation of this movie: it is pitched almost a 4th above of the original opera pitch!
Even for listeners with no perfect pitch, the experience of G. Reich voice sounding like a tenor would be a frustrating one!
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