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The Martin E. Segal Theater Center presents


At the Segal Theatre Film and Performance Festival 2024

A film by

Claudia Müller

Theater, Documentary

This film will be screened in-person on May 18th.

About The Film


Germany, Austria



Running Time



Year of Release


Child prodigy, scandalous author, traitor to the fatherland, feminist, fashion lover, communist, language terrorist, rebel, enfant terrible, nest fouler, brilliant, vulnerable artist.
Claudia Müller's film about Elfriede Jelinek, who in 2004 was the first German speaking female writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, focuses on her artistic approach to language. ELFRIEDE JELINEK - LANGUAGE UNLEASHED is a multi-layered, associative film portrait, full of contradictions; it approaches the linguistic montage technique of the artist from her very own close perspective. (production note)

“Look at me NOW!” says Elfriede Jelinek at the beginning of ELFRIEDE JELINEK - LANGUAGE UNLEASHED. She holds a piece of paper up to the camera, which she lowers briefly to reveal her face. On the paper is an arithmetic problem that explains the image onscreen. It is an arrangement that forces us to read – or rather, we read in order to see – and Jelinek writes in order to be seen. Seeing, in the sense of recognizing.

Jelinek is shown on the move, in Vienna and other cities, in different decades. The journey begins with the Nobel Prize – Jelinek was the first Austrian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature – and works its way along specific themes that characterize the author’s work. Filmmaker Claudia Müller has made a name for herself with documentaries about such diverse personalities as Jenny Holzer, Shirin Neshat, VALIE EXPORT, and Helmut Lang. Here she works with her cinematographer Christine A. Maier with enthusiasm and aplomb, arranging current recordings and archive materials by, with, and about Jelinek into a portrait of the author.

The range of the material is astonishing and manages to surprise again and again with something hitherto unknown. Müller and editor Mechthild Barth repeatedly opt for outtakes and peripheral materials, which allows us to enjoy film clips of Jelinek with her dog, for example, or holding a stack of prize money. They are images that offer resistance to the public image that is determined by a very different set of attributes. Texts read off-screen (by Stefanie Reinsperger and Sandra Hüller, among others) and material relating to dramatic events in contemporary Austrian history (such as the assassination of four Roma in Oberwart in 1995 and the massacre in Rechnitz in March 1945) complement the multi-layered collage of historical and contemporary materials.

“... Everything has really been said,” Jelinek states towards the end. The author no longer appears in public nor explains anything. While Claudia Müller concentrates entirely on Jelinek’s work and thus her language, Müller’s film now gives us the opportunity to see – and to understand beyond one-dimensional causalities. (Sylvia Szely)

Director Claudia Müller Cinematography Christine A. Maier Composer Eva Jantschitsch Editing Mechthild Barth Sound Design Johannes Schmelzer-Ziringer Dramaturgical Advisor Brigitte Landes Narrator Ilse Ritter, Sophie Rois, Stefanie Reinsperger, Sandra Hüller, Martin Wuttke, Maren Kroymann Production Martina Haubrich, CALA Film, Claudia Wohlgenannt, Plan C Film Production Manager Hanne Lassl Participant Elfriede Jelinek Supported by Filmförderung der BKM (Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien), Arte, BR, DFFF, ÖFI - Österreichisches Filminstitut, Filmfonds Wien, FISA Filmstandort Austria, ORF Archival Research ORF Silvia Heimader

About The Artist(s)

Claudia Müller

Claudia Müller, born in 1964, is a German documentary filmmaker based in Berlin. She is known for her several excellent film portraits dedicated especially to international female artists. Müller has a profound knowledge of production and theory of contemporary art, as well as an intimate insight of the art scene; during almost three decades she has built up connections with artists all over the world.

After her studies of German Literature, Journalism and Arts at Universities in Berlin and Cologne she worked with Peter Greenaway and Krzystof Zanoussi. Since 1991 she has been an independent television journalist and director, making numerous film documentaries. She founded her own production company PHLOX Films in 2007 (

Claudia Müller is particularly interested in the visual arts, with films presenting the work of artists such as Jenny Holzer (2009), Shirin Neshat (2010), Cindy Sherman (2009), Kiki Smith (2014), VALIE EXPORT (2015), Katharina Grosse (2020), Heidi Bucher (2021) as well as writer and theater director Hans Neuenfels (2011) and designer and artist Helmut Lang (2015).

With her ongoing landmark documentary series Women Artists Claudia Müller has featured Katharina Grosse, Annette Messager, Berlinde de Bruyckere, Monica Bonvicini, Tatiana Trouvé, and Ursula von Rydingsvard. More than 80 female artists from varied geographical and cultural contexts have been represented in this comprehensive project. Her work has contributed to the ongoing debate on identity, gender, sexuality, feminism, female esthetics, and the visibility of women in the arts. The DVD was published by Walther König Publisher (2019).

Her latest documentary series project, Art in the Desert, was broadcasted on Arte in 2019. Müller currently finished a feature-length documentary on the Austrian Nobel Prize winning writer, Elfriede Jelinek.

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