Le Sacre du Printemps (2005) “Silent Movie” to Stravinsky’s ballet score

by | Jun 2, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Le Sacre du Printemps (2005)
A Silent Movie to the Music of Igor Stravinsky

Sir Simon Rattle cond. The Berlin Philharmonic
Director: Oliver Herrmann
Studio: eins54 FilmArtHaus Musik 100 333
Video: Enhanced for 16:9 widescreen; Extras = 4:3
Audio: DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM Stereo
Languages & Subtitles: English, German, Spanish, French
Extras: Interview with Sir Simon Rattle; Storyboard of film; Interviews
with some of the actors; On the Set; Post Production work
Length: Film: 38 min.; Rattle interview: 15 min.; Bonus materials: 75 min.
Rating:  zero or *****, depending on taste

It’s not easy to summarize this strange film, which by the way has won
numerous awards at film festival around the world. I credit it for one
very functional thing – I don’t believe I will ever again see in my
mind’s eye those big lumbering dinosaurs crossing the desert in
Disney’s Fantasia when I hear the music of The Rite of Spring! Nor will
I think again of the primitively-costumed dancers moving fitfully to
Stravinsky’s score in its original ballet setting of a sacrificial
ritual in prehistoric Russia.

No, I’ll be visualizing instead a pair of albino men in tutus, a
godlike black female figure baking tiny people like cookies in her
kitchen, nuns, voodoo rituals, walls of neatly-mounted Polaroid
snapshots being broken thru with an axe, or people endlessly lost in a
giant green maze. Not to mention some very sexual scenes and a roomful
of naked figures writhing around which disturbingly hovered between
Dante’s Inferno and a Nazi death camp “shower.”

Of course this is not a silent film at all – just as most silent films
were not.  It was shot to match frame by frame to a live
performance of Stravinsky’s complete score (unlike the abridged
Fantasia version). And not played by just anyone but specifically by
Maestro Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic.  This was performed
live at the 54th Berlin International Film Festival.  Sadly, by
that time the creative mind who conceived this project had died of

His dark scenario concerns three characters who are seriously
dysfunctional and obsessive in different ways. One is a brain surgeon
who cannot control the chaos he feels in his world, another a woman
lost in mourning her late husband, and lastly a pretty young girl
destroying herself in revenge against her abusing father. The hand of
God (the black woman baking in her kitchen) places the three in the
streets. When their fears peak a solar eclipse occurs and they are
transported to a tropical island where each undergoes a Santaria ritual
– led thru it by what looks like the cast of a Fellini film. 
(This section was filmed in Cuba with some real voodoo practitioners.)
God watches the experiment from her window thru a telescope. The
outcome is not more positive for the trio nor for the viewer than is
the outcome of the virgin who dances herself to death in the Stravinsky

In his interview Rattle talks about working with the director on the
film, and the difficulty in conducting the work since there was no
“wiggle room” as with, say, a live ballet.  The orchestra had to
be right on the button to match the music to the changes of shots on
the screen. I was thankful for the DTS soundtrack, which is rich,
detailed and compelling, with plenty of use of the LFE channel. The
cinematography and transfer to DVD is also impressive. I can see
why  this Le Sacre was a success at film festivals, but I’m sure
some viewers might suffer from “Le Scare” if they were forced to watch
this artistic effort at marrying what was originally the most
controversial piece of 20th century music with a series of
controversial filmic images.

– John Sunier

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