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Carlos Kleiber – I am lost to the world
A documentary film by Georg Wübbolt, produced by Bernhard Fleischer
Filmed in High Definition, mastered from an HD source, Picture Format 1080i 16:9, Sound Format PCM Stereo; Languages: German and English; Subtitles: French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean. A co-production of BFMI and ZDF/3sat, 2011.
C MAJOR Blu-ray 715304 [58:32]

Jonathan Woolf reviewed the DVD version of this film back in July 2011, and the Blu-ray has been issued only now. I am intrigued by the title of the film, being a translation of what is arguably Mahler’s most moving song, “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”, from the Rückertlieder.
According to the accompanying note, Carlos Kleiber was one who reached for the stars and was “bound to fail in certain aspects of his life” in the way society expected of him, and so “was lost to this aspect of the world”. Yet he always remained true to himself. The thing that struck me most from viewing the film was how deeply immersed in the music he was and how the musicians were willing to put up with his perfectionism and ultimately give what he demanded of them. He had his way of cajoling them both with a wonderful sense of humour and non-technical, even colourful illustrations to get the results he was after.
The film did a good job in tracing Kleiber’s career and his relationship with his parents. The contrast between his conducting and that of his martinet father is startling. There is one instance with a split screen that showed what exact opposites they were. Although some attention was paid to his relationship with his wife and his womanizing, there was no indication of his role as a father himself. If anything, there were far too many short comments by those who knew him best, which included such renowned conductors, as Wolfgang Sawallisch, Michael Gielen and Riccardo Muti, in addition to other musicians and producers. Also, while most of the film is in German, there is a rather annoying narrator, Peter Ang, speaking in unidiomatic English periodically throughout the film, as well as Muti, whose English though heavily accented is much more idiomatic.
The film would have been improved by a greater variety of excerpts of Kleiber’s conducting. As it is, the fuzzy footage of him conducting Tristan und Isolde that recurs throughout like a leitmotif becomes tiresome, even if it shows what a graceful conductor he was. The excerpts from Der Rosenkavalier and the Overture to Weber’s Der Freischütz, though in also in black and white, were far clearer. As there are videos available of Kleiber conducting Beethoven and Brahms symphonies very clearly and in full colour, one would have expected some of these to be included, that is, if rehearsal tapes of these even exist. What we do get, though, is a rather amusing, if exasperating rehearsal segment of Kleiber conducting the beginning of the second movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 where he cannot get the musicians to play the underpinning rhythm as he wants it: “Theres, Theres, Theres,” which could refer to a friend of Beethoven named Theresa; Kleiber is asking the musicians to play the rhythm as her name is pronounced rather than the longer “Marie, Marie, Marie”.

The bottom line is that if you have the DVD of this film — though I have not seen it myself — I see no reason to purchase the Blu-ray. The other documentary film of Carlos Kleiber, Traces to Nowhere, has also been reviewed here by Simon Thompson and Kirk McElhearn in its DVD format. I have not seen that either - it too has been issued in Blu-ray. From what I have read, it may be preferable to this one because of its greater length and the fact that it includes an interview with Kleiber’s sister.
However, for anyone with the slightest interest in the career of one of our very greatest conductors, either of these films should be seen in whatever format. Extras included in this Blu-ray are the usual trailers. There are six of them: Thielemann conducting; Beethoven symphonies; Karajan doing Mozart and Dvořák; Rudolf Buchbinder playing Beethoven concertos; Bernstein conducting Beethoven and Haydn; Jansons doing the Mahler Second with the Royal Concertgebouw; and a production of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
Leslie Wright

Previous review (DVD): Jonathan Woolf