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The filmed Man

One trend in the theatre is to transform films into theatre plays – whether this is Monthy Pyton’s Spamalot or Dirty Dancing.

Even Hitchcock’s ’39 steps’ is a long running hit in London’s West End.  Whilst this is mainly about recreating the film experience, two recent plays have gone further and provided an interesting reflection on film. The one is a Berlin Schaubuehne production of Strindberg’s ‘Miss Julie’ by British director Katie Mitchell . It was only shown for a short period at the Barbican.

The other one is ‘The drowned man’ by the group Punchdrunk. Many believe that the destiny of this theatre piece is to become aa cult play.

In ‘Miss Julie’ the action is filmed in parallel by various video cameras. The simultaneous cut can be seen on a screen. There is even a table where sound effects is being created live. Most of the play takes place inside the house, which is not cut open for the audience. The characters can only be seen through the windows and on screen which makes the play even more claustrophobic. The light is dark, atmospheric, so what the audience sees on the screen is very cinematic.
The quiet, very well choreographed filming activities, which are happening in a very professional way underlines the inevitability of disaster. But still despite seeing the characters on the screen the characters remain strangely distant. Knowing how tedious and complex filming usually is, the apparently smooth filming baffles.  Soap Operas and sitcoms are often recorded like this… but ‘Miss Julie’ is far from being a TV show and this reminds us that it is the content, which matters.

The other production of ‘The drowned man’ does not imitate production forms. It actually offers a tour through a film studio at the end of the 50ies where the audience can be witness of the shooting of various films and misbehaving of the hedonistic film making crowd – as if just taken from Kenneth Anger’s ‘Hollywood Babylon’.

The behind the scene look is rather an immersion into film scenes, motifs and themes which are quite familiar if you know US American films of the 50ies or David Lynch movies.  The sets are created so real, authentic and cinematic that you really feel transported into this time and the films.

The only thing which is missing is the plot. And even though a lot of action can be seen the characters are nothing more than stereotypes and their pantomine and dance like acting can never reach any complex level.

Many of the audience might look for a plot and realize after an hour that there is nothing really – maybe many small subplots. So the journey is rather a journey through space and time and atmosphere. But this is already as amazing as seeing the favourite movie again and again – not because you want to know more about the plot, but because you like the moments, the feeling…. you want to be part of it.



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