Image © DEFA Film Library 2020
Celebrate Beethoven’s Birthday!
2020 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of the great German composer Ludwig van Beethoven. An untiring compositional innovator, Beethoven was a crucial figure in the transition from the classical to the romantic era in classical music. Afflicted with increasing deafness as of his early 30s, he was also a difficult person and suffered personal and social hardships.
The DEFA Film Studios produced two full-length films on Beethoven 20 years apart from one another. The 1954 documentary Ludwig van Beethoven, which prominently links the composer to the aspirations of the French Revolution, was a central contribution to the early GDR’s efforts to claim German high culture for itself as the “better” Germany. In contrast, Horst Seeman’s 1976 feature film Beethoven – Days of a Life is an impressionistic portrait of the aging artist and his milieu, which chronicles his personal successes and failures as he works on his Ninth Symphony.
Each of these films is available for streaming and/or can be rented for non-commercial public screenings. Both can be bought together on the Beethoven Duet DVD, which also includes educational bonus features.