Susan Sontag called this film "the most extraordinary film I've ever seen". While this may seem hyperbolic, it isn't. This is an extraordinary film, and I completely understand Sontag's adoration of it. This is a brilliant film, one that has had me thinking for days about it. I watched it over 2 nights, and there's so much in it and so much to take in that I'm planning on renting it again or perhaps purchasing it. Despite its nearly 7 1/2 hour length, there isn't one dull moment in it. I only watched it over 2 nights because I had to go to sleep. If I had had the time to watch the whole thing in one sitting, I would have done so without thinking. I haven't felt this glued to the screen in I don't know how long.
The film is absolutely mesmerizing. This film has been unavailable for many, many years, and this is the first time it's been offered on home video. The director, Hans Jurgen Syberberg, had posted the film on his website, but watching it on a TV or projected is the best way to see it. The film is operatic, theatrical, mind bending, sad, haunting, angry, depressing, and just about everything else you can think of. The 4th part is a little boring (the first 30 minutes of part four is one long monologue), but after this monologue is concluded, the film takes off again to a stunning conclusion.
Never does the film feel padded. Like in Wagner's great operas (Wagner figures prominently here), a film like this needs to be long to tell its story, and that should be respected. The actors throughout the film give excellent performances, and the film is one of the most thought provoking films that I've seen in recent memory.
It is interesting to note that this film, despite its mammoth length, cost a mere $500,000 dollars and only took 20 days to shoot (even though the pre-production period was longer than most films). The DVD has an excellent booklet with many essays on the film, but the most (and justifiably) famous essay is the one written by the great, late Susan Sontag, who championed this film and who should be congratulated for her insight and dedication to this filmic masterpiece.