Jean-Marie Straub & Daniele Huillet: Selected Works
Eyes Do Not Want To Close... (Othon)
Dir. Jean-Marie Straub & Daniele Huillet, Italy/France, 1970, DCP, 88 min., French w/ English subtitles
A faithful adaptation of Pierre Corneille’s Othon, the classic tragedy that premiered at the court of Louis XIV at Fontainebleau in 1664 and today is more hallowed than actually performed, Othon depicts the power vacuum that followed Emperor Nero’s death. Against a crowd of obsequious and scheming pretenders to the throne, Corneille has Camille as his epic heroine, the mother of all conscientious objectors.
Othon juxtaposes the irreconcilable requirements of a drive for power with the urgencies of tragic love… By placing their film in ancient settings (the Palatine Hill, and later, the Villa Doria Pamphili) that are surrounded by the sights and sounds of contemporary Rome, Straub and Huillet have included themselves in the historical time scheme of considerable, multi-layered complexity – including, of course, 17th-century France (and the Rome of 17th-century France) as well as the ancient and modern worlds. Straub plays the role of Lacus. The cinematographer, Renato Berta, was a frequent collaborator of Straub and Huillet. Othon was the first film that the partners shot together in Italy (on the Palatine Hill of Rome) and the first they made in color.
- by Joshua Siegel, Museum of Modern Art