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19 May 2019: The Death of Empedocles


The Death of Empedocles, or When the Green of the Earth Will Glisten for You Anew
Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub, 1986, 132 min
German with English subtitles
Introduced by artists and filmmakers Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson.

Friedrich Hölderlin’s drama The Death of Empedocles (Der Tod des Empedokles) is a tragedy on the death of the pre-Socratic Greek thinker and poet Empedocles of Acragas, composed in three incomplete versions from 1798 to 1799 and never published during the poet’s lifetime. The filmmakers are faithful to the text of Hölderlin’s first version: the first act deals with the political dispute and banishment of Empedocles from the city and the second with the philosopher’s conflict with the gods, his argument about the value of life and his decision to end his life in the volcanic crater of Mount Etna. After eighteen months of rehearsals with the remarkable actors cast for the film, the filmmakers staged this "oratorio without music" in outdoor locations in Sicily using direct sound and the available surrounding light. All the elements at play in the film – words, sounds, the gestures, light and nature – exert a force and tension that gives this film its telluric and vivid strength.

Filmtip: The Death of Empedocles
Harun Farocki, 1986, 7 min
German with English subtitles

In Filmtip: The Death of Empedocles made for German television, Harun Farocki talks to Andreas Rauch, who plays Empedocles in the film by Huillet and Straub.


Part of the touring retrospective The Films of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub