Next on screen is a 1968 French biopic of the life and music of the great German composer Johann Sebastian Bach as presented by his wife, Anna 

Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach – Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach
1968, 94 min., dir. Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub, starring Gustav Leonhardt, Christiane Lang, Paolo Carlini, German with English subtitles 


TIME: 17h00

VENUE: Howard College, MTB West Wing, First Floor, German Programme, Media Room F251 

About the film:
The widow of Bach reminisces in this biography. Her life with the great composer was not easy. He seldom spoke to her. When he did, it was only to read letters of complaint. Included are many famous performances of Bach’s works including the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, Prelude 6 from the Little Clavier Book for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Minuet 2 of the Suite in D Minor from the Little Clavier Book for Anna Magdalena Bach, Sonata No. 2 in D Major for Viola and Harpsichord, Partita in E Minor from the Little Clavier Book for Anna Magdalena Bach, Trio-sonata No. 2 in C Minor, Magnificat in D Major, St. Matthew Passion, Prelude in B Minor for Organ, Mass in B Minor, Ascension Oratorio, Clavier-Uebung Italian Concerto, Goldberg Variations, Musical Offering, Art of the Fugue Corale for Organ, and Cantatas No. 205, 198, 244, 42, 215, 140, 82.

This biopic has been created from actual letters and descriptions taken from writings of the time, so that the language and feel is authentic. We have Bach reading from his own letters (which appear translated–in summary–in the subtitles), and so the literary aspect of the movie: the script, that is, is creative in the sense that the screenplay recedes almost to the background. We hear Anna Magdalena, in voice-over, reading her journal, and we get an almost painful look at the beauty of Bach’s music against the deaths of more than half his children. Infant mortality in those days were high, but it took its toll, surely.

The acting has been deliberately kept to a minimum. What they have tried to do is to create a pseudo-documentary, that achieves the goal of throwing us back into the 18th century, to show just how different life was, back then, and as part of it, how different music was.

While Bach’s music can impress anyone, despite our ignorance of the cultural context of it, thousands will attest to the fact that the attempt to try to understand Bach’s life and times is infinitely rewarding. Travel is broadening, and this movie is travel in time … 

Giordano Bruno says about this film: “The reviewer who complains that it’s boring has to be taken seriously. I think that if you’re not fanatically committed to the music of Bach, you will find the whole thing colorless and slow. And I know enough about Bach–his life, his family, his community in late Baroque Germany–to declare that this is hardly an accurate biographical portrayal. It is what it is, an eloquent expression of the director’s and the performers’ obsession with the greatest composer of history.” ( 

For further details please contact: 

Dr Marion Pape
Head, German Studies
University of KwaZulu-Natal
School of Arts
Durban, 4041
Tel: 0027-31-260 1086 / 2380
Fax: 0027-31-260 1242

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