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The Night

GER 1985, 367 min

A six-hour monologue composed of poems, prose, letters, speeches and dramatic texts, performed by Edith Clever. In a setting approximating the darkness of night, entirely focused on the speaker, the physicality of the voice and the silence in between the words.


A musical monologue. In a dark room. In the tradition of recurring songs, night songs, hymns to the night, letters, cycles, fragments, figures and images by Novalis, Hölderlin, Goethe, Michelangelo and Goya.

A work of extreme reduction, of asceticism. A single person. Instead of history, meditation on history. Instead of action, silence. Instead of projections, darkness in space. Instead of the outer world, the inner world, beyond things.

A human being at the end of the era we called EUROPE. Born in the second act of Parsifal, between the walls of the head that seem to be the death mask of Richard Wagner, darkness within us from beginning to end.

The night as the opposite of the song of the sun. With the music of Johann Sebastian Bach as a fugue of the night for the instrument of one voice.

Press reviews

Xaver Schwarzenberger’s exquisite black-and-white cinematography transforms Clever’s angular face into an expressionistic landscape of light and shadow; as she speaks, she moves slowly through an elaborate choreography that sometimes suggests Eastern dance, sometimes athletic exercises. Somehow, the power of the piece seems to hinge on the fact that Clever has memorized the entire text (it was originally performed as a stage production); her entire being seems to carry the imprint of the works she articulates. — Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader, 1985

Awards and Festivals

1985 Cannes Film Festival
1986 Deutscher Filmpreis – Filmband in Gold für die Beste darstellerische Leistung (Edith Clever) und für die Künstlerische Gesamtkonzeption (Hans-Jürgen Syberberg)


Director and Screenplay
Hans Jürgen Syberberg
Edith Clever
Xaver Schwarzenberger
Jutta Brandstaedter
Set Design
Manfred Dittrich
Johann Sebastian Bach, Richard Wagner
With texts by 
Aischalos, Platon, Eduard Mörike, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Nietzsche, Novalis, Friedrich Hölderlin, Samuel Beckett, Richard Wagner u.a.
Hans Jürgen Syberberg
TMS Film, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), Österreichischer Rundfunk (ORF)