Part and Whole: On Some Uses of Landscape in the Films of Huillet and Straub

McAuliffe, Sam. 2023. Part and Whole: On Some Uses of Landscape in the Films of Huillet and Straub. In: Martin Brady and Helen Hughes, eds. The Cinema of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub. Cambridge: Legenda, pp. 45-59. ISBN 9781839540585 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

Landscape for Georg Simmel is an intrinsically paradoxical form of representation, locked in tension with the order of nature out of which it is composed. “By nature,” he writes in 'The Philosophy of Landscape,' “we mean the infinite interconnectedness of objects… Nature is not composed of pieces. It is the unity of a whole.” It is in this sense that the particular ensemble of elements to which a landscape gives expression institutes a break in this open-ended continuum. It detaches itself from the whole by tracing a line of demarcation where there would otherwise be none. “To conceive of a piece of ground and what is on it as a landscape, this means that one now conceives of a segment of nature itself as a separate unity, which estranges it from the concept of nature.” For Simmel this leaves each deployment of landscape grappling with an imperative: how to “open up again towards that total-Life and re-absorb the infinite into its still intact boundaries.”

In the films of Huillet and Straub something of this schema appears in more than one iteration, to more than one end, but always tied to a certain conception of politics. This essay will consider the cinematic protocols and textual mediations through which such an appeal to nature takes place, as well as the specific constructions of landscape to which it gives rise, from the ‘geological theatre of figures’ in Too Early, Too Late (1981) to the spatial dynamics associated with the motif of ‘turning away’ in Moses and Aaron (1975).

Item Type:

Book Section


Huillet and Straub, Simmel, Brecht, Landscape, Nature, Gaze, Voice

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


22 April 2023Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

24 May 2023 12:28

Last Modified:

22 Apr 2024 01:26


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