Erbarme Dich – Matthäus Passion Stories (2015)

Kristallen Film

Dutch Film

Festival 2015

Official Selection



Official Selection

Göteborg International

Film Festival 2015

Official Selection

Vision du Reel


Official Selection

Jeonju International

Film Festival 2015

Ramón Gieling
Financial partners
Nederlands Film Fonds
Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds
Goert Giltay
Wouter Veldhuis
Barbara Hin
Sound design
Marc Lizier
Research & Director’s assistant
Gabriella Adèr
Line Producer
Sylvia Baan
Janneke Doolaard
25 jan 2015, IFFR
24 maart 2016, NPO2
99 min.


Music is a world in itself

A language beyond understanding

A choir consisting exclusively of homeless people is invited to attend the rehearsals of the St Matthew Passion in a church which has fallen into disuse. They make up the audience, seemingly one with the choir and the orchestra. But every person present in this abandoned house of God has his or her own reason for listening to the St. Matthew Passion. In the course of the film we will discover their personal connection to Bach’s oratorio – Jesus’ Via Dolorosa, which is performed across the world every year around Easter. 

The orchestra, soloists and choir, led by conductor Pieter Jan Leusink underscore the stories of the main characters in our film with their performance of the St Matthew Passion. And Leusink isn’t just the conductor, he is one of the main characters himself, with a painful history in which this musical piece has played a dominant role. This is a man who lives for the St Matthew Passion, while that same music caused a rift between him and his Calvinist father.

Others tell us about their relationship with this piece as well. Among them opera director Peter Sellars, chorus director Simon Halsey, writer Anna Enquist, choreographer and dancer Emio Greco, and members of the homeless choir De Straatklinkers. We visit them in their house, at work, or other places, and also meet them in the dilapidated church.

Their stories are unique but can be easily identified with; after all we are all acquainted with some kind of suffering, loss, and love. That is why the suffering and death of Christ, the subject of the St Matthew Passion, is not only timeless, but familiar as well. For in spite of our differences we all share in the secret of music.

‘The film is a hallucinatory trip through the monument that is Bach’s music and the character’s poignant stories.’

‘The St Matthew Passion makes people experience something they couldn’t bear to hear if it were said in plain language.’



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