The disc release (Blu-ray and DVD) of Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Jedermann is actually a 2 for 1. There’s a recording of a performance of the play from the 2020 Salzburg festival plus a 54 minute “docufiction” film about the history of the festival.
The play, in full, Jedermann. Das Spiel vom Sterben des reichen Mannes is, of course, von Hoffmansthal’s translation and reworking of several medieval mystery plays and concerns a rich man doomed to die and abandoned by his worldly companions. It’s traditionally staged at Salzburg on an open air stage in front of the cathedral and that’s where it was filmed in 2020; the 100th anniversary of the festival. Stage direction is by Michael Sturminger with original music by Wolfgang Mitterer.
It’s quite spectacular. It’s given a modern “cocktail party” type setting with lots of glitz through which Jedermann, brilliantly played by Tobias Moretti, makes his allegorical journey from heedless playboy, to doomed sinner, to saved penitent. The theology is classic medieval Catholic so there’s little nuance but the cast exploit the existential drama brilliantly. Besides Moretti there are particularly fine performances from the veteran Peter Lohmeyer as Death and Caroline Peters as Jedermann’s lover. There’s also a very funny cameo by Gregor Bloéb as the frustrated Satan.
It’s pretty clear that the staging is making full use of the grandeur of the setting but video director André Turnheim can only hint at it. The total “stage” is just too big to be fully captured on video. In fact, Turnheim probably does as much as he reasonably can to capture the essence. Mitterer’s score is modern, jazzy and atmospheric. It’s heavy on winds and percussion and really adds an extra dimension to the drama.
I watched the DVD version and it’s fine. The picture is clear enough and both the stereo and DTS surround tracks are more than adequate. Unusually the only subtitle option is English.
The film is called The Great World Theatre – Salzburg and its Festival and it’s directed by Beate Thalberg. It features footage of events at and around the festival from a wide range of sources linked together by a narrative by Florian Teichtmeister in the part of Max Reinhardt’s butler, Franz Swatosch, as he prepares for a dinner party featuring guests from throughout the festival’s history.
It’s very cleverly done. Essentially it portrays the festival’s history as cyclic. The original “holy trinity” of Reinhardt, Strauss and von Hofmannsthal create the festival to mark a rebuilding of European culture in the wake of the Great War and Spanish flu. Along come the Nazis. The festival team is torn apart between those who collaborate and those who go into exile. The war ends and Gottfried von Einem and Berthold Brecht seek once again to revive the festival as a centre of engagé art. They are foiled by the too-soon- excused Nazi pair of Herbert von Karajan and Josef Klaus. Decades of embourgeoisement and celebrity culture follow before Karajan is removed by Jedermann’s co-star and the end of the Cold War signals a new phase. Gérard Mortier returns the festival to its roots and perhaps goes beyond them to the great scandal of the good burgers of Salzburg and the glitterati who have become the audience.
One can, of course, dispute this reading of events but I find it convincing in its essence and the material is marshalled in a convincing way. The insights into the characters from the early days who made up the ménage at Reinhardt’s Leopoldskron palace is especially insightful. In any event it’s a fascinating film. It can be viewed with either German or English soundtrack.
So, an interesting and unusual double bill.