Face to face with power

The Confessions of Winifred Wagner

Winifred Wagner und die Geschichte des Hauses Wahnfried von 1914-1975
Winifred Wagner et l'histoire de la maison Wahnfried de 1914 à 1975

Hans-Jürgen Syberberg

1975Germany302 minBlack and white


Winifred Wagner was filmed over five consecutive days in one spot, a house where a person sitting a table unrolls in front of the camera the memories and history of a house, the Wagner family house, the history of Germany over the previous sixty years, history as seen from one of the country’s cultural centres.

PRINT SOURCE: Syberberg Filmproduktion, film@syberberg.de

Through a close examination of Winifred Wagner’s role as a woman and as a powerful public force in the German culture establishment, Syberberg elicits the common elements in the preservation and maintenance of the symbolic order in both the public and private dimensions of her life. The film orchestrates its many and complex issues by focusing obsessively on the figure of Winifred Wagner. The camera holds her tightly in the frame, only varying from time to time by means of subtle adjustments in distance and perspective, by alternating medium and close-up, frontal and profile shots for punctuation and emphasis. Only at the end will the camera relinquish its hold somewhat. For most of the film, the audience is forced to situate itself with the interviewer, to make his questions its questions, and to struggle, as Syberberg must struggle, with his “subject.” The only relief from Winifred Wagner’s presence is through the connecting strips of black or white leader with their printed quotations, selected, it seems, to provoke a larger critical context for the interview.
–Marcia Landy (Politics, aesthetics, and patriarchy in the confessions of Winifred Wagner, in Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, the Film Director as Critical Thinker R. J. Cardullo (Ed.), 2017)

  • PRODUCTION : Syberberg Film, TMS Film, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Österreichischer Rundfunk
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