December 2018, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour - Theatre and Film

UNTER SCHNEE, 2011

The relationship between film and theater oscillates between proximity and distance, inspiration and emancipation. Despite all thoughts of competition, the need for aesthetic and formal independence and the vehement refusal of particular artistic traditions – all aspects which characterized the relationship between film and theater at the beginning of the 20th century – the theatre offers a pool of subjects, models and forms as comprehensive as it is complex, via which the older medium repeatedly inscribes itself within film history. Approaching this relationship from the other way around, film also plays no small part in the "myth of theater" and has opened up long-concealed theatrical spaces and dynamics to the (theater) audience. We have collected several examples of the diverse connections between theater and film in this month's Magical History Tour, which span various different film historical periods, genres and styles. They draw on the wide-ranging potential of theater within cinema – theater as a source of inspiration or a microcosm, bringing together life and the stage and fiction and reality, blurring boundaries whilst also sometimes seeming to mirror the very world itself.

O THIASSOS (The Travelling Players, Theo Angelopoulos, Greece 1975, 1. & 12.12.) Times and places that dissolve into one another: a group of travelling players journeys through the Greece of 1939-1952. Again and again, they perform the play “Golfo the Shepherdess”; again and again, history pushes itself onto the stage. While the play makes constant reference to the ancient myth of the Atreides, it equally opens out into the respective political, personal, and social present of the time, allowing all nature of parallels, connections, and contexts to emerge. O THIASSOS is at once an odyssey and a chronicle, doused in mythology, theatre, allegory, and reality, embedded in a rich abundance of different forms of cinematic expression.

DIE SCHAUSPIELERIN (Siegfried Kühn, East Germany 1988, 2. & 9.12.) 1930s Germany. The actress of the title Maria Rheine (Corinna Harfouch) falls in love with her Jewish colleague Mark Löwenthal (André Hennicke). She becomes a star, he finds refuge at the Jewish Theater in Berlin. She follows him there out of love and pretends to be Jewish herself until she is denounced to the Gestapo. The stage, rehearsals, performances and changes of costume all stand for the exploration of different realities and identities, with the mirror scenes becoming urgent self-interrogations between Maria and the roles that she plays.

WOYZECK (Werner Herzog, West Germany 1979, 4. & 7.12.) An extraordinarily faithful adaptation of Büchner’s play, which only exists as a fragment: in a small garrison town equal parts idyllic and claustrophobic, a soldier names Woyzeck takes care of his girlfriend Marie (Eva Mattes) and his illegitimate child. In order to boost his meagre pay, he makes himself available for medical tests, until he finds out that Marie has become involved with another man. In sustained shots, few cuts, and in stylistic proximity to theatre, Herzog creates a tableau of repression, ossification, and violence.

VARIETÉ (E.A. Dupont, Germany 1925, 5. & 18.12., with a live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins) Dupont's film marks the transition between expressionist aesthetics and the New Objectivity movement and conceptualizes variety stages and circus arenas as places of longing. Trapeze artist Boss (Emil Jannings) leaves his wife (Maly Delschaft) and child in order to start a new life both on and off the stage of the Wintergarten variety theater with his new partner, the mysterious and seductive Berta-Marie (Lya de Putti). When Berta also catches the sophisticated artist Artinelli, the Salta mortale which all three of them perform every evening becomes an act of life and death. Karl Freund's "unbound camera" allows the audience to get right up close to the dizzying numbers taking place high up in the circus dome only to create the "reverse shot" shortly afterwards by taking on the position of the audience seated before this stage of life by means of shots of opera glasses, spectacles and monocles.  

MUEDA: MEMORIA E MASSACRE (Mueda, Memory and Massacre, Ruy Guerra, Mozambique 1979, 6. & 20.12.) depicts an anti-colonial work on memory, a re-enactment played by amateurs of the massacre of Mueda carried out by Portuguese soldiers on 16th June 1960 when they opened fire on demonstrators, killing hundreds. This was the catalyst for the anti-colonial movement and popular theater already started exploring it in 1968, while the war of independence (1964 - 1974) was still going on. Not only is the brutality of the colonial power depicted, but also the stupidity and ridiculousness of its representatives, as well as the ignominious role played by their collaborators.

DOGVILLE (Lars von Trier, Denmark 2003, 8. & 15.12.) It is only outlines drawn in chalk on the ground and a few free-standing props that serve to divide up the space in DOGVILLE – a naked stage, a stylized theater set. It is all merely conjecture, a model world and experimental set-up in equal measure, a location for Lars von Trier to stage a "learning play" in nine acts. Grace (Nicole Kidman) is on the run and finds refuge in the small town of Dogville in the Rocky Mountains. The inhabitants' stance towards her changes over the course of time, their tolerance of her presence at the beginning of the film giving way to open humiliation and exploitation. The radical erasure of all stage elements makes the illusionary character of cinema visible and reveals how the audience is deceived.

GORI, GORI, MOJA SWESDA (Shine, Shine, My Star, Alexander Mitta, USSR 1969, 11. & 14.12.) The stage name of this theater enthusiast in the early years of the Soviet Union could hardly have been picked in more programmatic fashion: a wandering actor travelling across the USSR with a horse and cart to perform Shakespeare's dramas calls himself Iskremas, short for "Iskusstwo revoluzii massam", which translates as "art of the revolution for the masses." Iskremas dreams of a revolutionary theater and is even willing to take on his biggest competitor Pascha, the owner of a cinematograph, to implement his ideas. A moving tragicomedy which explores the relationship between revolutionary art and the masses, steeped in the boisterous joy of acting and a naively fantastical visual world.

UNTER SCHNEE(Ulrike Ottinger, Germany 2011, 23. & 27.12.) In Echigo, Japan, the snow is often meters-deep all the way into May and covers the landscape and villages, with the local inhabitants having become accustomed to it over the last centuries. Ulrike Ottinger set off into this mythical land of snow to record their entirely unique forms of everyday life, celebrations, and religious rituals – taking two Kabuki theater actors with her. In the roles of students Takeo and Mako, they follow in the footsteps of Bokushi Suzuki, who wrote his extraordinary book “Snow Country Tales” in the mid 19th century. Kabuki theatre, poetry, and the raw reality in this region of central Japan are connected to form a contemplative, semi-fictional portrait of a magical landscape.

VANYA ON 42ND STREET (Louis Malle, USA 1994, 16. & 29.12.) Louis Malle's chamber drama merges life and theater to such an extent that the transition between them is hardly even perceptible any more. A group of theatre folk meet in the run down New Amsterdam, an old vaudeville and movie theater, where the rehearsals for Anton Chekhov's play "Uncle Vanya" are supposed to be taking place. Without any visible break, without make-up, costumes or other visible preparations, the actors (including Wallace Shawn and Julianne Moore) immerse themselves in their roles and pass from one realm into the other.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE (Ernst Lubitsch, USA 1942, 19. & 25.12.) A theater group in Warsaw rehearses the anti-Nazi play "Gestapo", whose protagonist is Hitler himself. When the Germans invade, reality ends up superseding fiction. The actors join the resistance and their costumes come in very handy. Lubitsch's comedy of mistaken identity, which holds the Nazis up to ridicule, is a film of appearances and exits, of costume and masquerade, of role play and exchanging roles. The "world" enters the theater, just as many small and bigger stages crop up outside of the theater.

VOUS N'AVEZ ENCORE RIEN VU(You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet, Alain Resnais, France/Germany 2012, 22. & 26.12.) A host of illustrious French actors meet at the country home of the recently deceased playwright Antoine d'Anthac, with whom they all had a long personal and professional relationship. They are told it was d'Anthac's wish for them to watch a video recording. The film is of rehearsals for a performance of Jean Anouilh's "Eurydice", a play all of them were directed in by the dead dramatist years ago. Without further ado, they slide back into their roles of yore. Stage, digital, iris and split-screen effects set the scene for a self-reflective game about variation and repetition, past and present, love and death, theater and film, against a deliberately artificial backdrop.

MOULIN ROUGE! (Baz Luhrmann, USA 2001, 28. & 30.12.) Between melodrama and musical, “theatricalized cinema” (BL) and post-modernism: Luhrmann’s stirringly sampled treasure trove of references runs the full musical gamut between Jacques Offenbach and Elton John, John Lennon and Madonna, Sting and Freddie Mercury, working with narrative elements from different classic operas and operettas as it revolves explores famous Parisian variety stage the Moulin Rouge, which Luhrmann depicts as a shrill, synthetically gleaming surface of total over-stimulation. An optical and acoustic firework display, within which the love story between the penniless writer Christian (Ewan McGregor) and star dance and courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman) plays out. (mg)

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour - Theatre and Film

07:30 pm Cinema 2


To Be or Not to Be

To Be or Not to Be Ernst Lubitsch USA 1941
With Carole Lombard,  Jack Benny, Robert Stack, Felix Bressart
35 mm OV/Spanish ST 89 min

arsenal cinema: LA BATAILLE D’ALGER – A Film in History

08:00 pm Cinema 1


La bataille d’Alger, un film dans l’Histoire

La bataille d’Alger, un film dans l’Histoire The Battle of Algiers,
a Film Within History Malek Bensmaïl France/Switzerland/Algeria 2017
DCP OV/EnS 117 min

Malek Bensmaïl in person