Skip to main content

Days of Twilight, Nights of Frenzy

A Memoir

Werner Schroeter was a leading figure of New German Cinema. In more than forty films made between 1967 and 2008, including features, documentaries, and shorts, he ignored conventional narrative, creating instead dense, evocative collages of image and sound. For years, his work was eclipsed by contemporaries such as Wim Wenders, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, and Alexander Kluge. Yet his work has become known to a wider audience through several recent retrospectives, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Written in the last years of his life, Days of Twilight, Nights of Frenzy sees Schroeter looking back at his life with the help of film critic and friend Claudia Lenssen. Born in 1945, Schroeter grew up near Heidelberg and spent just a few weeks in film school before leaving to create his earliest works. Over the years, he would work with acclaimed artists, including Marianne Hopps, Isabelle Huppert, Candy Darling, and Christine Kaufmann. In the 1970s, Schroeter also embarked on prolific parallel careers in theater and opera, where he worked in close collaboration with the legendary diva Maria Callas. His childhood; his travels in Italy, France, and Latin America; his coming out and subsequent life as an gay man in Europe; and his run-ins with Hollywood are but a few of the subjects Schroeter recalls with insights and characteristic understated humor.

A sharp, lively, even funny memoir, Days of Twilight, Nights of Frenzy captures Schroeter’s extravagant life vividly over a vast prolific career, including many stories that might have been lost were it not for this book. It is sure to fascinate cinephiles and anyone interested in the culture around film and the arts.

368 pages | 41 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2017

Biography and Letters

Film Studies

Gay and Lesbian Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: Germanic Languages

Music: General Music


“Schroeter lived his imagination with implacable fervor, and gave the world some of the most complex, sensuous, enthralling, and sophisticated works of cinema, opera, and theater it has ever seen and heard. His art is subtle and outrageous, drastic in its emotional perplexity, and instantly seductive, a magnificent alloy of the sublime and the absurd. His ideas sprang from an unparalleled sense of life, a brilliant grasp of the human heart's perversity and grandeur, an unwavering focus on essential truths of the inner life and its fantastic outward display. This book is a portal into the mind and soul of a matchless artist and a truly unique human being.”

Gary Indiana

“Schroeter was a fascinating and highly idiosyncratic figure in the histories of film, theater, opera, and the German avant-garde in the last quarter of the twentieth century. His life was packed with an astonishing range of collaborations, love affairs, professional disappointments, and triumphant accomplishments. This book reveals a consummate artist and a master raconteur at the top of his form."

Edward Dimendberg, University of California, Irvine

Table of Contents

Preface, by Claudia Lenssen
Vous êtes pardonné, Werner
Spiritual mother, natural mother
My model family
Innocence has a friend in heaven
The sun of the night
Muse, companion, friend—Magdalena Montezuma
Rosa/Holger and Carla—the beginning of my artistic work
Argila and Neurasia
Eika Katappa
 . . . and what came of it
Salome in Baalbek
Beautiful is ugly, ugly is beautiful
The Death of Maria Malibran
Emilia Galotti; or, How the theater discovered me
Willow Springs
Gods in decline
El Angel
A sense of the world—journeys in Latin America
Flocons d’or
One must leave so as to understand
Madness, the key to all hearts
Naples in winter
Champagne Schroeter
The White Journey
Abroad in Germany and Italy
The Bavarian Sausage Conspiracy
La patrie de l’âme
Failure makes you human
Day of the Idiots
A blasphemous clan
Réveille-moi à midi
The Rose King

I and alcohol—alcohol and I
Grief, Longing, Rebellion
My theatrical family
Where words end, music begins
The Queen
Enough breath for my life
All that life devours
The last love, friendship
The way to something new
This Night
Afterword, by Claudia Lenssen
The prima donna’s broken heart, by Werner Schroeter
Canceling out unbearable reality: A conversation between Monika Keppler and Claudia Lenssen
Life’s work
Test films, fragments, incomplete projects
Live performance (plays, musical theater, opera, dance theater)
Distinctions and film awards (a selection)
Index of Names

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press