Too Early, Too Late (1980–81) is a diptych shot in France and Egypt which concerns the relationship between history, class struggle and land. In the first part of the film, Huillet reads excerpts from a letter written by Friedrich Engels on the eve of the Revolution of 1789 about the impoverishment of French peasants. In the second part, shot in the Egyptian desert, the writer Bahgat Elnadi reads from Class Conflict in Egypt: 1945–1970, a book he co-authored with Adel Rifaat under the pseudonym Mahmoud Hussein, which covers the history of anti-colonial resistance and class struggle in Egypt. Danièle Huillet wrote about the film: ‘What is recounted: struggles, revolts, defeats, delays and anticipations, statistics; what is represented: history, topography, geography, geology, light, lights, wind and clouds, land (transformed and worked by men), traces – erased or still visible – and sky (lots of sky).’
Europa 2005, 27 Octobre (2005) is a ciné-tract, a pamphlet shot in video form, which responds to the deaths of Bouna Traore and Zyed Benna, two Parisian teenagers who were electrocuted in 2005 when they entered a high-voltage power substation in an attempt to escape from police. Their deaths ignited three weeks of uprisings across France. In five camera pans, Straub and Huillet document the dead-end location of this atrocity, thus making evident the violence and iniquity of the authorities.
Huillet and Straub had originally planned to film Jackals and Arabs (Schakale und Araber) in 1980, while they were in Egypt filming Too Early, Too Late. Eventually filmed on video in a Paris apartment in 2011, the film is based on a short story by Kafka, an allegory about Arab-Jewish relations written in 1917 after the signing of the Balfour Declaration. Two performers, Barbara Ulrich and Giorgio Passerone, recite Kafka’s text, creating a tension matched by Straub’s incisive editing, which cuts into the image like a scalpel.
Too Early, Too Late, Dirs. Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, France/Egypt, 1980–81, 100 min., English
Europa 2005, 27 Octobre, Dirs. Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, France, 2005, 10 min., no dialogue
Jackals and Arabs (Schakale und Araber), Dirs. Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, France, 2011, 11 min., German with English subtitles