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  • Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach [DVD] [Region 1] [NTSC]
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Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach [DVD] [Region 1] [NTSC]

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
A life through music - not your normal action drama 6 Jan. 2006
By Archimedes - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This deserves 5 stars; I merely put 4 stars to signify that your mileage will most definitely vary!

This movie, a DVD of a film of the late 60s, presents Johann Sebastian Bach through 2 avenues: (1) a (ficititious) diary (the Chronicle) of Anna Magdalena Bach, the composer's second wife, and (2) the music of J.S.Bach itself. It is in German, with English subtitles.

The Chronicle, if not authentic, has been created from actual letters and descriptions taken from writings of the time, so that the language and feel is utterly authentic. We have Bach reading from his own letters (which appear translated--in summary--in the subtitles, of course), 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.

It is well recognized that Bach's music, as well as those of his contemporaries (almost any music, in fact, I suppose) has to be understood in relation to the times in which it was written. 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. It has the eerie feel of early 20th century documentaries taken back 200 years further. How did they do it? Black and white film, deliberately understated action, and static scenes, where little happens except music performance.

In this way, you hear --and see-- some of Bach's most important and representative music, you see Gustav Leonhardt performing, directing, instructing students very much as Bach would have. These were two of the director's main goals, and he has certainly met them.

IN musical legend, the romance of J.S.Bach and Anna Magdalena is an important fixture. This movie stays true to the legend; she is represented as a patient, loving, admiring wife who is deeply hurt by all that hinders Bach from creating greater and yet greater things. Yet there is never more than the slightest hint of frustration, another way in which the movie more powerfully weaves its spell of time travel, back to those times when one took a beating and ground on without making much of a fuss.

I recommend it highly, for Bach lovers as well as those who are yet to discover Bach, if it is through his personality that it happens. Gustav Leonhardt, a pioneer of the movement to perform Bach in authentic style, was instrumental in recruiting a whole generation of fans. This movie has the power to do more of it.

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
It's About Music, Not Entertainment 21 Sept. 2007
By Giordano Bruno - Published on
Format: DVD
The gaunt, cerebral Gustav Leonhardt makes an utterly implausible Johann Sebastian Bach, until he sits down at the keyboard. Then there is something ineffably touching about watching him project his empathy with the long-dead composer who has dominated his own musical life. Leonhardt couldn't act but he surely could play.

I saw this movie at least thirty years ago, but I remember the impression it made on me vividly, which is perhaps the most ardent praise I could confer on any movie. I'm amazed and pleased to discover that it's been re-released.

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.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
FILM ABOUT FILM 21 Mar. 2006
By A fan - Published on
Format: DVD
Some might think this previously unobtainable film to be an arcane (for some) cinematic exploration of Bach's musical career. Wrong! This painstakingly assembled piece of work is one of those few cases where feature-length film transcends the normal limitations of the medium. It is relentlessly pared down (I think there are no more than 200 edits during the whole film) and while this may seem austere / unforgivingly minimal it certainly encourages you to focus on the fact that THIS is a film that has been MADE (rather than having sprung into existence full-formed) - a film where each and every decision has been carefully and conscientiously weighed by the directors. Instead of mindlessly expecting a film to entertain you - like some kind of ferris wheel - try appreciating the MEDIUM for once. This great and unique film will help you to do so!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
One of the great masterpieces of cinema 19 Oct. 2013
By J. Steffen - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I will say up front, I am endlessly grateful to New Yorker Films for making this film available on DVD in the U.S.! I had never seen it before and was completely bowled over by what Straub and Huillet accomplished. In a way, it is actually quite straightforward and simple, though it is not a dramatic feature film narrative in the usual sense. The film operates on two levels--on one level, it is a "materialist" reconstruction of Bach's music, performed in period costumes, with period performance practices, in locations where they pieces were originally performed. Gustav Leonhard, the pioneer of period musical performance, plays Bach himself. We also see images presumably from everyday life in that period. On another level, juxtaposed to the music we hear a first-person narrative by Anna Magdalena Bach detailing the difficult circumstances of Bach's personal and professional life, including his financial hardships and deaths of some of his children. The film celebrates the genius of Bach's music, while making you see the world he lived in.

The entire film is done with incredible precision--every shot is placed and timed exactly right. You even get a feel for the ornate and cramped spaces of the churches where musicians originally performed some of Bach's cantatas. If you approach this film with an open mind, The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach is at once triumphant and tragic, a deeply moving and magisterial work.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Finally found it! 7 July 2013
By CM - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I saw this movie years ago in NYC and have been looking for it ever since. It is a unique production of the life of JS Bach. The director has done some things that are quite unique. I have learned this from a professional film reviewer.
1. The microphones are always were the cameras are. No "artificial" sound differences.
2. The cameras are always placed where a normal person would stand/sit. Hence, there are no "artificial" shots.
3. The pieces selected are played in their entirety so there are no cut offs or sound bits.

The narration is well done. Also this DVD offers interviews with the cast/crew that help in an appreciation of the film.
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