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11 December 2017: The Death of Maria Malibran


Despite being revered by filmmakers such as Werner Herzog and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Schroeter still remains a marginal figure in New German Cinema, often pushed aside under the label "obscure". His total rejection of plot, excessive stylization, and histrionic performances combined with the sexual ambiguity and operatic indulgences of his characters, make him particularly challenging to access. Yet, it for these reasons that make his films so ripe for exploring. His second feature, The Death of Maria Malibran, a series of operatic tableaux relating to the life and death of the 19th century singer, Schroeter considered his best work, and has been championed by luminaries such as Amos Vogel and Michel Foucault as a work of a complete originality.

The Death of Maria Malibran
Werner Schroeter
1971 | 104 min | Colour | 16mm

Ecstatic, sublime, and endlessly strange Schroeters’ most celebrated film is series of tableaux depicting the life of the 19th century opera singer who supposedly died as a result of her overexertion on stage. Rich with literary and opera citations, exuding pure physicality, a mosaic of human expressions and gestures, juxtaposing operatic excess with kitschy pop music, scenes of pastiche Romanticism, and slapstick violence, the film remains a testament to the subversive potential of film as art.