Across their life, the husband-and-wife filmmaking duo Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet generated a politically and aesthetically provocative body of work, which, in toto, suggests nothing less than a desire to reinvent the art of motion pictures from scratch. Restlessly resourceful, the pair made over 40 films during their half-century collaboration, many based on extant literary sources. We’ve collected here some of their supreme achievements, including Moses and Aaron, an awesomely austere adaptation of innovative Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg’s unfinished opera of the same title, and Class Relations, Straub and Huillet’s nightmare-vivid adaptation of Franz Kafka’s incomplete novel Amerika.
The subtitles on these releases were overseen and approved by Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub. The subtitles follow two unorthodox principles: they are as literal as possible and certain sections are left un-translated. This represents a break within the film with the notion that the meaning of a text is in the words and their interpretation alone. Furthermore, the passages without subtitles allow audiences a chance to hear and see the film without reading.