Europe

Jean-Marie Straub et Danièle Huillet
En rachâchant

En rachâchant is based on the short story Ah! Ernesto! (1971) by Marguerite Duras in which the child Ernesto does not want to go to school anymore as all that he is taught are things he does not know. What interests Straub and Huillet is the avoidance of showing what the writer sees, stating: “we cannot illustrate what he sees, that would block the imagination…What interests us is the text which will be embodied in living beings, the dialogues but not the plot of the story… There cannot be a film where the text is more part of the people that in our films! Necessarily because there are months of work, the texts enter their nerve tissue. That is a form of popular culture.” En rachâchant addresses this tension between legitimate knowledge taught in schools and popular culture. Here, it is the student who comes with a new and revolutionary pedagogical system. The film is a lesson that teaches a form of resistance to the institution, and addresses a political reflection on the education system, as well as on the status of children.

Jean-Marie Straub (b. 1933, Metz, France) and Danièle Huillet (1936, Paris–9 October 2006, Cholet, France) worked together in film from 1963 and 2006. Their work consistently questioned the possible transformation from one medium to another—literature, painting, music and film—as a process of re-reading, re-inventing and readjusting of meaning. Klassenverhältnisse (Amerika, rapports de classe, 1984), from the incomplete novel of Franz Kafka, Sicilia! (1999) and Conversations in Sicily (1941), Elio Vittorini, and Une visite au Louvre (2004) based on Joachim Gasquet’s book, Cézanne, attempt to transform written civilizations into oral culture. Straub-Huillet pursued social and political change not simply on the level of content, but rather by employing specific formal techniques based on distinct practice of creative labor, working with direct sound and non-professional actors. Their cinema is defined by an aesthetic and political sharpness, by the use of long static shots, the care taken in the image and sound, with respect for the text and borrowed music.