Werner Schroeter 1945-2010
Der Tod der Maria Malibran (1972)
"This bizarre film by one of the most original directors now working in Germany is hermetic, expressionist, oblique, and of a creative perversity that bespeaks the presence of a genius. Purporting to deal with a real-life 19th century diva 'whose popularity was such that over-exertion led to her death while singing,' the film is actually a grisly series of frozen or tortured tableaux (predominantly lesbian in implication) of heavily rouged, frequently ugly women who, pretending to sing heavy opera, go through contorted, icy attempts at communication that lead nowhere. The lip-sync is off; the singing is off-pitch; mouths are frequently open while no sound issues forth, or closed, with mellifluous arias or cheap popular songs heard on scratchy renditions of old records. Neither burlesque nor slapstick, the film's intent, at least in the beginning, is nevertheless ironical and subversive, though mysteriously so. However, it grows increasingly dark and more threatening, with screams, faces bathed in Vaseline, red, wet mouths, smeared eye shadows, and dehumanized figures. One cannot 'explain' Schroeter's work, other than recognize his debunking of opera as a metaphorical rejection of bourgeois society; but one trembles in recognition of a prospective major talent."
- Amos Vogel, Film as a Subversive Art