May 6, 2012 - The Museum of Modern Art, New York - Werner Schroeter
May 6, 2012

Werner Schroeter

Der Rosenkönig (The Rose King). 1986. West Germany/Portugal. Directed by Werner Schroeter. Image courtesy Filmmuseum München. Pictured: Mostefa Djadjam (left) and Antonio Orlando (right).

Werner Schroeter 
May 11–June 11, 2012

11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019

T 212 708 9400
Event page

First comprehensive North American retrospective of German film, theater, and opera director Werner Schroeter features 40 films and rare early experimental shorts

The Museum of Modern Art, in association with the Munich Film Museum and the Goethe-Institut, presents the most comprehensive North American retrospective ever assembled of the German film, theater, and opera director Werner Schroeter (1945–2010). The exhibition is organized by Stefan Droessler, Director, Munich Film Museum, and Joshua Siegel, Associate Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

Featuring 40 feature films and rare early experimental shorts—very few of which had theatrical releases in the U.S.—the exhibition opens on Friday, May 11, with Deux (Two) (2002), Schroeter’s quasi-autobiographical, surreal-expressionist memory play, which reunited him with Isabelle Huppert for the third time. The exhibition also includes the newly restored Eika Katappa (1969), an experimental collage of image and sound that forges elements from opera, theater, and cinema; Der Tod der Maria Malibran (The Death of Maria Malibran) (1972), which perpetuates the myth and mystique of a legendary 19th-century mezzo-soprano through a dreamlike series of Romantic tableaux; La Répétition générale (Dress Rehearsal) (1980), featuring dance and theater performances by Pina Bausch, Kazuo Ohno, and Reinhild Hoffmann; and his voluptuous, homoerotic masterpiece, Der Rosenkönig (The Rose King) (1986). Also presented are the U.S. premiere of Mondo Lux (2011), a documentary portrait by his longtime cinematographer Elfi Mikesch, with reminiscences by Rosa von Praunheim, Isabelle Huppert, Wim Wenders, and Maria Montezuma; and interviews between Schroeter and Alexander Kluge, a key figure of the New German Cinema.

The full measure of Schroeter’s influence on his German contemporaries Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Rosa von Praunheim, and Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, and on Daniel Schmid, Ulrike Ottinger, Wim Wenders, and Werner Herzog, has only begun to be fully appreciated. So too his direction of actors like Isabelle Huppert, Bulle Ogier, Candy Darling, and his muse and superstar, Magdalena Montezuma, from whom he drew some of their greatest performances. Inspired, like Jack Smith, by the divas of silent-era cinema, Schroeter strove for an authenticity of feeling through extreme emotions, reaching a point, he said, of “musical and gestural excess.” He found this on the steps of an ancient Roman temple and on the streets of Manila, in a Pina Bausch dance piece, a fin-de-siècle Oscar Wilde tragedy, and a Verdi aria performed by Maria Callas. Making no distinction between kitsch and high art—travesty was for him a form of exaltation—he drew from a dazzling array of sources: Shakespeare and the Passion Play, German Romanticism and Italian neorealism, 19th-century opera and Arab pop, Jean Genet and Douglas Sirk, fashioning out of these a densely woven, ravishing, and often hallucinatory collage of images, songs, and fragmentary narratives organized around musical structures.

Fassbinder anticipated Werner Schroeter’s belated recognition when he wrote in 1977 that “Schroeter, who will in years to come assume a place in film history similar to that of Novalis, Lautréamont, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline in literature, was for 10 years an ‘underground’ director—a role one did not wish to let him escape. The great filmic vision of Schroeter’s world was constrained, repressed, and at the same time ruthlessly exploited. His films [were rendered] in a flash as beautiful but nonetheless exotic plants, blossoming in such a strange manner that ultimately one couldn’t really deal with them…. And that is as simplistic as it is wrong and stupid. Because Werner Schroeter’s films aren’t esoteric; even if they are beautiful, that still doesn’t make them exotic. Quite the contrary.” No less admiring was the French philosopher Michel Foucault, who wrote, “What Schroeter does with a face, a cheekbone, the lips, the expression of the eyes…is a multiplying and burgeoning of the body, an exultation.”

Werner Schroeter is made possible by The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.

Werner Schroeter at the Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
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