Hanns Eisler: CDs, Videos, Books Videos

Bullet Fourteen Ways of Describing Eisler
Bullet Symphonic, Chamber and Piano Music
Bullet Vocal and Choral Music
Bullet Videos with Eisler Film Scores
Bullet Books by and about Eisler
Bullet Political Music and the Urban Folk Revival

Bullet Early sound films and documentaries
Bullet Hollywood feature films
Bullet DEFA studio films and "Night and Fog"

The following is a partial list only of those movies that are readily obtainable on e-commerce sites. Please note that links to Amazon will take you directly to the page where the film is described, but links to other sites will take you to a front page, where you can type the name of the film or director into a search box.

Solidarity Song 1997 BW and Color  Buy this video [VHS]
Larry Weinstein, director

Hailed as one of the best documentaries about the life of any composer, "Solidarity Song" captures the life and times of Eisler, Brecht and other German artists of the generation that survived fascism, exile and war. It follows Eisler through Vienna, Weimar-era Berlin, New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and finally postwar Berlin. All of the music is by Eisler, skillfully adapted by the director to period footage from World War I, Berlin during the turbulent 20s, wartime New York and Hollywood, the anticommunist HUAC hearings in Washington, and the early years of divided postwar Germany. The performances staged for the video are outstanding contemporary interpretations of Eisler's political and chamber music by first-rate ensembles. Look for an astonishing recreation of Der heimliche Aufmarsch (The Secret Deployment) that integrates a filmed performance by Ernst Busch projected behind a contemporary men's chorus, and a rocking interpretation of Brecht/Eisler's Supply and Demand by Australian singer Robyn Archer.

Early sound films and documentaries

Rain 1929 BW  Buy this video [VHS]
Joris Ivens, director

This is the silent version of the 12-minute documentary by legendary Dutch documentary film director Joris Ivens. In 1941 Eisler composed a score as part of a project, financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, to develop experimental forms of film music. The concert version of the score, "Fourteen Ways of Describing the Rain," was premiered at Arnold Schoenberg's seventieth birthday party in Los Angeles.

No Man's Land: Hell on Earth 1931 BW  Buy this video [VHS]
Victor Trivas, director

When the Nazis came to power, they tracked down and destroyed every available copy of this antiwar drama. Apart from its theme of international brotherhood, the Nazis objected to the film's multiracial cast, which included an African and a Russian Jew. The original German version therefore has disappeared from history. But the movie was released in 1931 in the U.S.—it was, in fact, the first sound film imported from Europe. This version was recently discovered and restored. It is shorter than the original, but includes much of Eisler's score.

New Earth 1934 BW  Buy this CD [VHS]
Joris Ivens, director

The famous Dutch system of dikes usually evokes images of idyllic fields and picture-postcard villages, but building the dikes actually was a huge industrial project that used exploited labor and displaced thousands. Ivens tells the alternative story in a documentary whose score, according to the Joris Ivens Foundation, is "stirring."

400 Million 1939 BW  Buy this video [DVD]
Joris Ivens, director

Narrated by Frederic March, 400 Million is Joris Ivens' powerful documentary on China's fight against the Japanese invasion. Shot on location, it shows both scenes from the war and the intense beauty of China's immense countryside with startling realism. The New York Herald Tribune praised the Eisler score as "a rich musical fabric." Also on this DVD: Spanish Earth, Ivens' documentary on the Spanish Civil War, with narration by Ernest Hemingway and music by Virgil Thomson and Marc Blitzstein.

The Forgotten Village 1941 BW  Buy this video [VHS]
Herbert Kline, director

John Steinbeck wrote the story and script for this moving film about Indian villagers in Mexico struggling to adapt their ancient traditions to the 20th century. Narrated by Burgess Meredith.

Hollywood feature films

Hangmen Also Die 1943 BW  Buy this video [VHS] Buy this video [DVD]
Fritz Lang, director

Brecht's only Hollywood movie script did not have a happy outcome, at least from the author's point of view: he protested Lang's treatment of the story and withdrew from the project. Set in wartime Prague, the number two man in Himmler's SS is assassinated by a Czech resistance fighter. The subsequent manhunt for the "assassin" pits a German secret policeman against a courageous Czech family. The music for the concluding song, "No Surrender," was recycled by Eisler in 1950 as the last movement of a cantata composed in honor of the SED, the GDR Communist party. The score led to the first of Eisler's two Oscar nominations.

None But the Lonely Heart 1944 BW  Buy this video [VHS]
Clifford Odets, director

Cary Grant as a drifter returns to his home in London's East End to discover his mother, played by Ethel Barrymore, is seriously ill. Eisler's score earned him his second Oscar nomination.

Deadline at Dawn 1946 BW  Buy this video [VHS]
Howard Clurman, director

The only film by Group Theater director Clurman is a murder mystery about a naive sailor framed for a woman's death. Based on a script by Clifford Odets from a novel by Cornell Woolrich.

A Scandal in Paris 1946 BW  Buy this video [VHS]
Douglas Sirk, director

Based on the autobiography of Francois Eugene Vidocq, the story of a suave French thief from his birth in a prison to his unlikely rise to Paris chief of police. Vidocq's life alternates between prison and the streets, but through political cunning, deception and seduction rises to the most powerful law-enforcement post in Paris—which he plans to use as a cover for a daring heist. Sirk shapes Vidocq's story into a charming romantic classic full of urbane wit, sophistication and sultry musical numbers.

DEFA studio films and Resnais' Night and Fog

Our Daily Bread 1949 BW  Buy this video [VHS]
Slatan Dudow, director

Unser täglich Brot was Eisler's first feature for the East German DEFA studio after his forced departure from Hollywood. Considered the GDR's first socialist film, Eisler's score attracted a great deal of comment at the time. Set in the ruins of postwar Berlin, a family struggles for survival. The film reunites Eisler with Dudow, who directed the revolutionary late-Weimar film "Kuhle Wampe."

Council of the Gods 1950 BW  Buy this video [VHS]
Kurt Maetzig, director

Rat der Götter is based on the postwar trials in Nuremberg of the directors of the IG Farben chemical conglomerate—who profited from slave labor in Auschwitz and other death camps. The movie also examines the relationship between German and U.S. corporations—which continued after Germany declared war on the U.S.

The Destinies of Women 1952 Color  Buy this video [VHS]
Slatan Dudow, director

Frauenschicksale provides a socialist perspective on relations between women and men. Set in West Berlin, the story explores the lives of four women who become involved with an unscrupulous man. Dudow ran into harsh criticism from the GDR cultural bureaucracy when the movie was released.

Night and Fog 1956 BW and Color  Buy this video [VHS]
Alain Resnais, director

Nuit et Brouillard was the first significant movie to document the Holocaust. Many others have followed, but Alain Resnais' masterwork still stands out today as the definitive film about the Nazi death camps. A year later, Eisler adapted some of the film score for his series of miniature compositions set to captions written by Brecht for the antiwar picture book "Guide to War." The film's main theme was used for the overture to the Becher play "Winter Battle."

Songs of Bertolt Brecht: Gisela May Sings Brecht 1972 Color  Buy this video [VHS]

German singer Gisela May—one of the definitive interpreters of the Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler repertory—presents several Brecht songs, including Eisler's Song of the Moldau and Song of the Nazi Soldier's Wife.

Written by Andy Lang.

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The video documentary "Solidarity Song" is highly recommended as the starting point for your exploration of Eisler's life and music. Other movies are representative of Eisler's composition for Weimar-era, Hollywood, and East German movies.

These videos and DVDs can be purchased from U.S. e-commerce sites in NTSC format. Some may be available in Europe in PAL format.