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Bach Movie - Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach



See: Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach


Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach

Ume [Tokyo] wrote (April 21, 2002):
This is not CD, but "Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach" DVD will release in Japan.

Maybe you couldn't read this, but this is Japanese DVD about film "Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach" link.
(copy this to address section then push!)

Film detail are

DVD region is 2 and NTSC, but It's new master by director, and good quarity. It will release 25 May.... (I wrote biography for musicians, so I knew... I mention about Ms. Drewanz [Christiane Lang], and Andreas Pangritz too, but no space for Karl Heinz Klein and Crista Degler [of course I wrote about young Bernd Weikl and Wolfgang Schone]).

This is very inportant film for Bach fan, so if possible to see NTSC DVD, try to get it.... (but it's Japan press...).

Riccardo Nughes wrote (April 21, 2002):
[To Ume] Great news Ume!
It is a wonderful and very rare film.


Leonhardt TV

Jill Gunsell wrote (December 4, 2004):
Does anyone recall a couple of German TV drama-documentaries (from the 1970s or 1980s?) in which Gustav Leonhardt donned period costumes to play the roles of (a) Bach and (b) Vivaldi. (I am not making this up.) I saw both in VHS when staying in Germany a few years ago and would like to find them if possible. Googling has got me nowhere.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (December 4, 2004):
[To Jill Gunsell] The first was a feature film called The Chronicle of Anna-Magdalena Bach, where GL played Bach, and performed some interesting music, including the long opening shot.

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 4, 2004):
[To Jill Gunsell] You most problbably referring to "Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach", a movie from 1968, in which Gustav Leonhardt 'plays' the role of J.S. Bach. See:

Riccardo Nughes wrote (December 4, 2004):
[To Jill Gunsell] It was 1967 Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach by Straub-Huillet:
It has been released on DVD in Japan only:

and (b) Vivaldi. (I am not making this up.)

Never heard or seen this...are you sure?

Jill Gunsell wrote (December 4, 2004):
Riccardo Nughes wrote:
< Vivaldi. [... ] Never heard or seen this...are you sure? >
Hm. Now that you give me pause for thought, no-o-o... !

Thanks to all who have told me about the Anna Magdalena Bach film.

Glenn S. Burke wrote (December 4, 2004):
[To Kirk McElhearn] I just purchased this as a region-0 DVD on ebay. The seller accepts PayPal, claims to ship internationally (from California, US), and has listed another one:

Mine hasn't arrived yet.

I don't remember where I found out about this. Maybe just CD liner notes, but I seem to remember seeing pictures on a web page.

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 4, 2004):
[To Glenn S. Burke] Leonhardt's photo at the lower right corner of his bio:
is taken from the movie "Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach". The photo was contributed by Dr. Graziano Fronzuto.


Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach

Eric Bergerud wrote (January 22, 2006):
The DVD version of the Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach is available on Netflix now and thus be available elsewhere too.

Robin Kinross wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To Eric Bergerud] Yes, but "elsewhere" means "in North America only". That DVD format won't play in Japan, Europe, Australia, China, etc, will it?

From a remark at: one can imagine that Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet haven't been interested in getting their marvellous films out on DVD or video. I can imagine that they don't like the image degration involved. I somehow doubt that we non-North-Americans will be permitted to see the film again, except when projected through celluloid onto a big screen.

Olle Hedström wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To Robin Kinross] To all interested in the DVD "Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach"

I bought it directly from the Japanese company Kinokuniya LTD two years ago on DVD, region 2:

No English subtitles though. German dialogue. A 'must-have' for every Bach lover.

David Hitchin wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To Robin Kinross] In Europe most DVD players have the capacity to play non-European DVDs. Entering an unlocking code makes them multi-regional capable. Nearly all televisions sold in Europe now can handle NTSC as well as PAL encoding.

Michael Noonan wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To David Hitchin] unlocking codes for DVD players - sounds magical. any abracadabra clue to this spell ?

David Hitchin wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To Michael Noonan] Well, as you asked, on my DVD player: Press pause, enter 314159, then 0, press pause again, turn off the power for a few moments, and it will play DVDs from any region.

Yours is probably different. See: or Google for similar sites if your model doesn't appear there.

Note that most recent European televisions can accept NTSC output from a DVD player, but if the picture doesn't appear in colour it may be necessary to move a switch on the back of the set, or to change a menu option.

Michael Noonan wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To David Hitchin] Many thanks. I will go off to try. I want to do something similar with the DVD on my laptop which has a limited number of lives. I may find the answer to my problem following the web ref. Many thanks.

Eric Bergerud wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To Robin Kinross] I'm not sure about commercial players, but computer DVD players usually have software that allow them to play discs from all regions.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To David Hitchin] In other words, feed it a nice piece of pi and it gets happy and cooperative. I could use a slice of key lime pie myself right about now.

How is Leonhardt's acting in that film? (I haven't seen it yet.)

Has anybody else here seen the fairly recent Kultur video that has Robert Levin taking the roles of JSB and of narrator? There are scenes of him walking in to jam in a Brandenburg Concerto session (on harpsichord), thumbing a carriage ride up to the city, or otherwise variously trying out keyboards. This video also has interviews with quite a few others, and some longish sessions with Ton Koopman at the organ console.

José de Anchieta wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To Michael Noonan] Please be careful trying these procedures. Not all DVD player make region control by means of software but through programware instead. If yours is the case you may damage your DVD player's main board as it happened to mine.

John Pike wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman] I love that Straub film. I've seen it several times. It shows it as it probably was...all the arguments with authority, children dying, life with the warts and all, beautiful music produced in the hardest of circumstances. It is very austere. Leonhardt isn't a great actor but that doesn't matter here...the hplaying, from the stunning very opening sequence onwards, is superb. I can understand this film wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but it gets my vote.

Robin Kinross wrote (January 23, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< How is Leonhardt's acting in that film? (I haven't seen it yet.) >
"Acting" isn't really what he does in this film. But then "acting" isn't quite what anyone does in Straub/Huillet films. They are a strange conjunction of naturalism and non-naturalism. Experimental and critical, very much in the spirit of those times: the Chronik der AMB is from 1967. In several respects the Straub/Huillet approach parallels the Early Music / HIP ideas of that time, and in this film the overlap is there in the subject matter too.

The Chronik is about the opposite of a play/film like "Amadeus", not to mention conventional biopics.

(Thanks to the people who gave advice about playing N. American DVDs)


Anna Magdalena DVD

Eric Bergerud wrote (January 30, 2006):
Watched "Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach" last night. Real mixed feelings. I'm not sure that it is a biography in any meaningful sense of the word. The short narrative sequences function to introduce the next piece of featured music. (At least, contrary to the Netflix description, the movie does nothing to suggest that Bach and Anna were unhappy with each other. It doesn't suggest anything about Bach's emotional life other than the well known squabbles with the Leipzig nobs. As Wolff points out there isn't much we know about Bach's day to day life so the film makers can be excused for not turning the flick into either Sleepless in Seattle or Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf.) In short this is kind an anti-Amadeus. Jean Marie Straub who was the film's major creator is interviewed (in 1967) on a nice short included on the DVD and explains that he did not want Bach's music to be used as a sound track. What isn't really clear to me is if the biography is so perfunctory and utterly stripped of emotion (Straub claims to be striving to "naturalism": kinda odd as I've never met a real human made of the kind of marble portrayed by Leonhardt and all of the other actors involved) why not skip it altogether and simply do a period instrument concert? It's a kick to watch Leonhardt and the other musicians do their job at the very beginning of the period instrument movement. The music is also well selected in my view. Unfortunately it does not seem as though the film was remastered in any way. Rather it was simply put on DVD. Consequently the sound is quite poor - a major flaw in a work where the music, not any actor, is the star. But it's interesting and I think most on the list would find the rental price well worth it. Don't think I'd buy it though.

Santu de Silva wrote (January 30, 2006):
The movie was made around 1965, long before Amadeus, and it is not difficult to understand the objective of the directors, given the interviews as well as the insert of the DVD. It is quite reasonable to try to fit it into our various pre-defined categories: biography, or something more Amadeus-like (a fantasy)?

But it is just as reasonable to expect to fail. There's a lot of movies that do not fall into the category of straight biography, simply because it is not interesting for the director/producer/writer, and audiences are not particularly drawn to them either. I still don't know what to call Immortal Beloved.

What these folks have tried to do is, I believe, to create a pseudo-documentary. By using costumes and period performances (as well as they knew how to, in 1967), they succeed in creating an illusion of distance in time that must have made the subject-matter more interesting (in 1967) than the early 20th-century reverence of Bach that gave the amateur music lover only a very limited taste of what Bach was all about. (All the chamber orchestra music has been widely available only since 1950.) It is this glamorization of the distance in time - - "distressed restoration" as someone describes it - - that was in part responsible for the great explosion of interest in the baroque in the years following the 1960s.

The woodenness of the actors (basically Bach/Leonhardt himself) is all of a piece of the desired "distressed reconstruction"; we see it from the wrong end of a telescope. And I think it works very well.

(I don't think there was any attempt to depict that AMB and JSB had marital problems; quite the contrary. As far as I'm concerned, their marital problems, if there indeed were any, are irrelevant if they could not be shown to have affected his music in specific ways. And even if it did, I for one would not be particularly interested!)

Eric Bergerud wrote (January 31, 2006):
[To Santu de Silva] Just to make things clear, I am well aware that Amadeus was made long after Anna Magdalena: I made the comparison simply to point out that the two films are polar opposites in style and intent. (I once read an interview by Peter Shaffer and, as I recall, he said his play was not intended to be biographical in any way. The play revolved around genius and envy, not Mozart. I must say that Forman's gloomy Vienna was one of the best period reconstructions that I've seen on film. But Forman had an invaluable aid in that regard: I visited Prague not long before the film was made and the central city looked like something out of the 18th century. Thankfully the worker's paradise there didn't have the will or funds to mess much with any part of the city that was intact. And Prague, unlike any other city central Europe, escaped damage from WWII. That said, the city center was in a sad state of repair: the Velvet Revolution came just in time. Anna Magdalena is very much about Bach - he's the only character portrayed. Anna sits at a harpsichord and narrates: everyone else is essentially an extra.) Also it was Netflix that described marital discord as being a theme of the film, an impression that certainly escaped me while watching it.

The argument that the film was meant to create "distressed reconstruction" is very interesting and may well be true. That is not the term used by Straub in the interview. He spoke of "naturalism." Arch may find the aims of German directors (especially of that vintage) to be clear. I never claimed to be bright but it struck me that most German films in the era of Fassbinder and Herzog had pretty much the same theme - life is rotten and then you die. (Capitalism is rotten too.) Anna Magdalena is positively cheerful when stacked up against that bunch. I've never figured out why the Italians have churned out so many splendid films since the war while Germans .... haven't. The heavy hand of politics I suppose. When the interviewer asked Leonhardt about his role, Leonhardt said he was cast because he knew something about period performances, could play keyboard instruments and conduct. When Straub was asked the same question he said Leonhardt got the role because he wasn't German: a German playing Bach, Straub commented, might be misconstrued as some kind of artistic nationalism. Heaven forbid.

One key, I'm sure, was the budget. The producer claimed that it cost 600,000 DM to make the film - a slim sum even if discounting inflation. That could explain the spartan sets and the almost total lack of any shots off-set. Why Straub decided not to attempt to show Bach or Anna aging I'm not sure. Leonhardt stays tall, thin and 35 throughout the film which ends at Bach's death. Now that is a cheerful notion.

Anyway, it's a very interesting film if not endearing and I'm sure list members would consider the time watching well spent.


Bach Movies: Bach's Life & Documentaries: Index by Title | Index by Year
Filmed Performances: Index by Work | Index by Main Performer
Bach's Music in Soundtracks: Index by Title | Index by Year
General: Index by Number | Discussions of Movies on Bach


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