A fearless Antigone, refusing to allow the dishonored body of her murdered brother Polynices to be devoured by vultures and dogs, defies the Thebian tyrant Creon by burying him.
“Of all Straub-Huillet films, I remember Antigone as the one most at peace with itself, in all its details. Or rather: in all the instances we pay attention to its so-called details. In all its well-ordered structure and, at the same time, incoherence. Because, despite the film’s obvious overall monolithic quality, while we are trying to follow its words – and usually fail due to its powerfully lyrical Hölderlinesque language – we keep paying attention to detail. The strangely billowing garments, the oily quiver of the olive leaves in the wind and the idiosyncratic chant-like intonation. And its eccentric rhythmic phrasing, which suggests that the language we are hearing, that what is being said and, even more so, what is not being said, is being made up there and then.”
“Antigone incorporates in many ways the return to mythic origins suggested by films such as Moses and Aaron or From the Cloud to the Resistance. It returns to the aesthetic origins of contemporary film and theater in its use of the visual simplicity of the silent cinema and the staging of Sophocles’ play in a Greek theater of his era. It also returns to the mythic origins of civil society in the death of the heroic individual: Antigone’s voluntary self-sacrifice parallels Moses’ sojourn in the desert and Empedocles’ plunge into volcanic fire. And its visual images, like its language, straining to be both German and Greek, mark the border between Europe and the other continents: the “African sun” shines on Sicily, as Huillet has put it.
Danièle Huillet’s love for the light and landscape of Sicily, the fascination with the Teatro de Segesta (a Greek theater in Sicily dating from the fourth century B.C.E. and one of the best-preserved Greek theaters of antiquity, discovered by Straub/Huillet some twenty years earlier while scouting locations for Moses and Aaron) led her and Straub to conclude their ten-year consideration of Hölderlin while returning to Brecht’s political aesthetics. Brecht’s version of the Hölderlin Antigone translation is rather obscure among his works and seldom performed, but Straub has emphasized that the text is “very much Brecht,” including some of the strongest writing he ever did for the theater.”
“A dress fluttering in the wind, a voice bemoaning the death of an innocent woman, a wall of stone with a broad plain stretching deep below it toward the sea, a hand straightening a veil, sunlight on the sandy ground. It is all there in this wide nonhierarchical ensemble of forms, shaped and unshaped, free and equal under the heavens. Nothing need mean more or stand for something else. It is the anticipatory glimpse of a world where “nothing is done for acquisition.” That is the concrete dream that moves this film, and all films of the Straubs to this day.”