Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actor: Elisabeth Furtwängler
Director: Jan Schmidt-Garre
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
A Personal Account
Robert A. Alps | Evanston, IL United States | 07/18/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I found this personal account by Elisabeth Furtwangeler of how she met Furtwangler, how he wooed her, and how she fell in love with him very fascinating. She met him after he had fathered several illegitimate children. But this seems to have not deterred her. She refused his early advances, but in time was overcome by his personality. She defends Furtwangler's decision to stay in Germany during the war (WW2). What is not clear to me is her relationship to the Nazi party and Nazi movement. She does not say much about her discomfort with the state of Germany under Nazism. Her account of Furtwangler's death is also quite interesting. I would highly recommend this video to anyone interested in Furtwangler."
Great for Furtwängler fans, but has weaknesses
T. Fisher | 06/27/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film presents the story of Wilhelm Furtwängler, arguably the greatest conductor of the 20th century, as told mainly through interviews with his widow Elisabeth. She shares personal memories, anecdotes, letters and photos in this short, 70-minute documentary.
The strength of the movie is clearly just the fact that this is Furtwängler's wife, telling a story that no one else could tell. A narrator gives background information and reads from Furtwängler's writings about how he reacted to various aspects of his career -- such as starting a career in conducting when he really just wanted to be a composer. There is some nice footage of Furtwängler conducting in rehearsal and concert.
Elisabeth Furtwängler does talk about her husband's well-known womanizing and illegitimate children, and she also talks about his decision to stay in Germany despite the Nazi regime taking power in 1933. While the film is not a whitewash of Furtwängler, it certainly presents him in a positive light overall. It is nice to get a feeling for his personal attitudes and characteristics through his wife's eyes.
On the other hand, the absence of any details whatsoever on the years under the Nazi regime is a big hole in the film and its most obvious shortcoming. Who better than his wife could have given us a picture of the man's personal attitudes and reactions to life under the Nazis?
The film does provide a great service by getting interviews with Furtwängler's wife recorded for posterity. This is a personal story only she can tell, and I'm grateful the film was made.
But in the end, it is a flawed work as well. The filmmakers don't really succeed in creating a compelling narrative that would be of significance to anyone who is not already a fan of Wilhelm Furtwängler and who does not know the basics of his life already. So you might consider rental options instead of a purchase straightaway.
Note that the DVD has no video extras -- total run time is 70 minutes. However, it does contain quite a collection of MP3 files on the disc of interviews, rehearsals etc with Furtwängler (in German). The MP3s are not accessible through the DVD menu. To see them, put the DVD in your computer and look at the disc in Windows Explorer or the equivalent on a Mac. From there you can copy to your hard disc using drag-and-drop.
I would also highly recommend two films that deal more with the "dark side" of Furtwängler's collaboration with the Nazi regime, still without condemning the man: The Reichsorchester: The Berlin Philharmonic and the fictional Taking Sides.