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„Eine ganze Welt öffnet sich diesem Erstaunen, dieser Bewunderung, Erkenntnis, Liebe und wird vom Blick aufgesogen.“ (Jean Epstein)

A Letter from Danièle Huillet

The following is a translation of a letter Danièle Huillet wrote to an Italian film critic in August 1976, as she and Jean-Marie Straub were having some problems concerning a book about their film Moses und Aron (1973). Huillet writes about money, and about the difficulty of being a filmmaker.

Here the original with names omitted (translation below, thanks to MG)

Lettera Huillet no-names

FROM: Danièle Huillet                                                                                             August 4th 1976
Jean-Marie Straub
I-00165 Roma

                                                                                                                 TO: Monsieur R.


after the first letter from Casa Editrice [publishing house] Cappelli and our almost immediate reply, we haven’t received any news from you or from the aforementioned publishing house, and almost a year and a half has passed! We accepted to embark on this project [for the making of a book in Italian about our film Moses und Aron (1973)] because of our friendship with G., who has just written us that „Cappelli è in passaggio di proprietà“ [publishing house Cappelli has been sold and is about to change owner]…

Now, we were never paid for translating the screenplay [of Moses und Aron] in Italian (not to mention the translation of the accompanying material, among other things) and for the photographs that we printed ourselves (we spent 70.000 lira for printing said photographs in 1975, which is quite a lot nowadays, because the photographs were printed in Paris and lira has been devaluing a lot ever since, as we all know). These 70.000 lira might be a ridiculous sum for you, but for us – people living not as „persone del cinema“ [big-time cinema people] but rather as non-specialized workers at the assembly line – it means several weeks of everyday life, and with overtime work too.

Given the present situation, we don’t care about the money, but we would like to get back all the material G. gave you on our behalf for the making of the book: 90 black-and-white photographs (ninety); a photocopy of the original German text with our shooting notes (= the screenplay); the Italian translation of said text (which cost us and our Italian friends a lot of days of work); a historical research also translated in Italian.

Lots of people ask us for photographs from Moses und Aron and we don’t have them anymore, and we don’t have enough money to print other stills (we have just finished shooting another film and got into debts with everybody, so our material [financial] situation is worse than the usual…). If you give us our material back, we could use the photographs we made at our expense last year!

Anyway, this Italian book [about Moses und Aron] is a very difficult one to make, and it could be interesting – useful – only if it is made with great care and there are no mistakes in it, and mistakes are always difficult to avoid if the material is translated from a foreign language; now G. doesn’t have time to work on the book and read the drafts (I wanted to proofread the drafts myself, but now I am too busy, because I have other things to do for other film projects). We also wanted to re-read and revise the transcription of the „long conversation“ we had with G. – but we didn’t have the chance to do it.

Therefore, it is better to forget about this book project. This way, you won’t lose anything. We lost our time and money, but we are used to it. Getting our material back now is the only way for us to limit „les dégâts“ [the damage, the nuisances].

No hard feelings – better luck next time, maybe. We hope that you’ll be so kind to quickly send our material to G., or to our place in Roma, or, if we are not home, to our friends (Georg B. XXXADDRESSXXX). Please, do not send us the material via mail: the postal service is not safe per se, and the photographs could get damaged. If you don’t plan to come to Roma in person, please, give everything to a friend of yours who’s going to visit Roma.

Best regards,
Danièle Straub-Huillet