By Tanja Bresan.

There has been a long history of degradation of theatre (especially evident in so much early film theory) in order to build cinema up, to prove its aesthetic worth…. Film often derives things from a similar theatrical space but the simple idea of my book is that in so many films there is this kind of shadow line established at various points….”

George Toles is Distinguished Professor of Literature and Film at the University of Manitoba. He is the author of several books: A House Made of Light: Essays on the Art of Film, Paul Thomas Anderson and, his most recent, Curtains of Light: Essays on the Methaphysics of Theatrical Space on Film.

With his latest book, Toles takes us on a journey through unconquered territory or no man’s land of cinema and theatre, guiding us to understand and recognise spaces within the two realms and their interchangeable parts. One cannot exist without the other and the challenges Toles poses for the readers and subsequently for the audience is how to recognise theatre space in film and most importantly, how to appreciate what it does for a film reality and how it further shapes it. Both realms are open for the debate and it makes it impossible to decide which realm has more emotional power and weight.

Toles is not so much preoccupied with political or ideological purposes within theatre environment. His main preoccupation are feelings, emotional struggles, sense of aloneness, the mixture of rational and irrational. As he points out in the introduction:

Theatre space is seemingly less weighty, less burdened with consequence and enduring commitment than the film space adjacent to it. It is a space designed, like a conjurer’s testing ground, for illusion, swift rearrangements, playfulness, games, provisional attachments, rehearsal, hiding, volatile unmasking, and of course performances. These performances are calculated for the pleasure and sometimes disquieting enlightenment of spectators, both within the film and ‘on the other side.’ What sort of protection does the overt quality of performance confer? Theatre allows ordinarily for more control than is possible in the messy contingencies striving beyond its borders. Theatre often knows its future, the final, agreed upon shape of things to come. When theatre action is in progress, film reality enters a kind of suspension. It waits to resume, off to one side, as it were.” (23)

We met over Zoom one afternoon to talk everything life, film and theatre, and it was utterly enjoyable.

Tanja Bresan: When I opened the book first time, the first chapter I read was “Prospero Unbound: John Barrymore’s Theatrical Transformation of Cinema Reality.” As profoundly as I was moved by his performance in George Cukor’s Dinner at Eight from 1933, I was again moved by your analysis of his persona in the film and his position in film medium as you said yourself:” Barrymore seems always a visitor to the land of film from another country. Is this another country theatre itself?

George Toles: One of the things that struck me about the film Dinner at Eight (George Cukor, 1933) when I started thinking about it for the book, was John Barrymore’s complete willingness to play a failed actor. I couldn’t think of a performer whose own persona was more heavily publicized in its disintegration than Barrymore’s – his drunkenness, his breakdowns on stage, his tortured, ofttimes farcical descent from his one time reign as king of the Royal Family of Broadway. It seems so clearly the case in Dinner at Eight that so much of Larry Renault’s scripted character is based on Barrymore (a distorted mirror reflection). Knowing this, Barrymore must decide what to do with this grim doppelgänger: a has-been actor with pathetically limited resources, though one who never possessed Barrymore’s stature, now close to an ignominious end. So much of Barrymore’s use of theatre on film is about expansion, ease and power of transformation. His problem as the actor he plays in Dinner at Eight is that Larry Renault has no faculty of belief, no access to magic. He no longer believes in performance of any sort; nearly all of his performance aptitude has deserted him and so he is trapped in one cramped hotel room, trying to keep Alize, but listlessly, a version of himself that his current girlfriend is all too willing to embrace.

Cukor, from all of his interview comments on Barrymore, had a close to worshipful attitude about Barrymore’s talent. I doubt it was a prescribed approach to the role. Barrymore was free to do what he wanted. It is wonderful to see how many voices Barrymore tries on in Dinner at Eight, and all of them are like gloves that don’t quite fit. Renault pushes himself with increasing desperation through his “last stand.” He is trying on old poses and attitudes but he can’t sustain them or find solid ground. The fact that there are steady barriers to acting belief and also a failure of energy, even when he is coming close to realizing something that he still desires, reduce him to a pathetic ghostliness.

As I said it in the Barrymore chapter, there is no film performance I’ve encountered that packs more humiliation into such a confined narrative duration – just two scenes. The movie is filled with humiliations but Barrymore’s are the supreme examples of it. And yet Renault’s meticulous staging of his own death has a kind of eerie beauty, the kind of consummation devoutly wished by an actor – the great profile, perfectly placed and lit for a death scene – and the actor, Renault, manages to make those moments his own (calmly self-possessed) in a way almost nothing leading up to them has been.

What was your main preoccupation or initial idea that made the book possible?

George Toles – At Bay Press

Moving back to the starting point of the book, which has a fairly simple idea at the heart of it. For all the similarities between theatre and film, there has been a long history of degradation of theatre (especially evident in so much early film theory) in order to build cinema up, to prove its aesthetic worth. In the silent era and in the first decades of sound film, when theatre was considered an art form with a greater pedigree and an imposing, centuries-long tradition, many advocates of the new, rival medium attempted to convert theatre’s strengths into defects: say, the insistence that theatre is for the ear. Why not argue then that film is for the eye and that this is an extraordinary advance? Theatre was attacked for all its arguable limitations, whether they be excessive reliance on language, a rigid proscenium frame, or remoteness from reality. Film often derives things from a similar theatrical space but the simple idea of my book is that in so many films there is this kind of shadow line established at various points – on one side of it “This is film reality” and within this film reality here is a bounded theatre space in which people perform theatrically. (And, of course, there are many forms of theatricality.) When we are experiencing the theatre space inside the film space, announcing its temporary autonomy, what transpires there often acquires an almost metaphysical difference.

Film reality is almost by default more real than whatever the theatre space situated within it can claim to be and yet of course the theatre space is never predictably determined: what it can achieve and what it can express, the kinds of freedom it has, the possibilities for transcendence, as well as the kinds of restriction.

So many people writing about the theatre in film reach immediately for words like artifice and masks and pretending as lower orders of self-expression. The implication is that theatre reduces what we have. What actually happens when theatre is operating at full power is quite the reverse. Let me mention briefly my recurring experience when directing plays.

We have a rehearsal space with maybe a table and two chairs and actors, after preliminary chats about real world activities, come into the space and take their positions. Quickly they shed their self-consciousness and begin moving and speaking in character. Eerily and wonderfully within minutes of crossing the shadow line, things of extraordinary complexity and emotional difficulty are created, which the actors with minimal help from props, sets and atmosphere are able to enter into so completely. There is a topsy turvy-ness when you are on the other side of the border of theatre space as an observer, either as a director or stage manager. Suddenly what is being accomplished by the actors within that designated theatre space seems richer, more complex, more real than what is going on in the space that the observer is occupying. On which side of the shadow line is our sense of reality stronger? This paradox was one of the inciting elements for my study.

As I said in the opening pages of the book’s introduction, examining the “invisible” death scene of Eddy Duchin (The Eddy Duchin Story, George Sydney, 1956) – on the one hand Tyrone Power’s disappearance from his piano seat and the film’s world is conspicuously a kind of theatrical stratagem, something that can be achieved by reframing and conspicuous sleight of hand. An actor disappears from the space he moments ago occupied in the frame and it has the feeling of something theatrical in the presentation of dying, but simultaneously it seems to me that theatre gains from cinema this strange supplementary kind of truth telling and power in the suddenly interrupted musical performance. Where does cinema enter into the rendering of Eddy’s death? Cinema is the movement of the camera away from this suddenly lost presence of Eddy. The shot hasn’t been broken by a cut though there has been a jump forward in time. Eddy is now gone, passed away, but his child, Peter, is still there in the room that they shared, moments ago – as he was when father and son played their duet. Peter now performs in a space that both grieves and assimilates loss. It is magnificently cinematic, without losing an unmistakable linkage with theatre. Eddy has gracefully left the stage.

Overall mainstream opinion on theatre is usually connected with overreaction, overdoing, overacting. How can we change that perspective?

The Lost Weekend (1945) – Seeing Things Secondhand

Going back to the The Lost Weekend (Billy Wilder, 1945) example of the La Traviata sequence in my book, it seems to me that theatre presented such an intriguing Houdini like escape route from the film’s predominant melancholy and the sombreness of its subject matter. I am obsessed with what tone shifts in film can accomplish. In this film something which is at once so richly comic and theatrical happens in the flashback memory of Don’s trip to the opera, and really allows Ray Milland to slip out of Don Birnam’s character and his desperate lost weekend trajectory. His barroom flashback recollection of this comic misadventure. (leading to the beginning of his relationship with Helen St. James) creates an alternative theatre space for him where he can draw upon a comic energy that the Ray Milland persona prior to The Lost Weekend typically had access to. So there is this safe haven of theatre which doesn’t seem to be less substantial than the “outer world” scenes of agonizing addiction. It is a place for a temporary lessening of the melodramatic load and the movie itself gets a different kind of rhythm and “breathing” going for the audience. Don Birnam’s concsciousness creates a theatre space which is expansivensive and comically well diversified. The theatre suddenly determines the shape of things. It’s not the case of mere delusion or illusion, it’s something more complicated than that.

Where do we succumb to fantasy the most – in film or in theatre?

It’s intellectually tempting, the minute you begin thinking of yourself in relation to the spectator role you are taking on, to imagine that you remain above it, and are rationally in control of your participation. It is natural to forget that in nearly all our life encounters there is an immense quantity of role playing going on that doesn’t feel unreal. You can never be sure in advance what a theatrical space on stage or on film can illuminate or the degree to which it can pull you in. There is a huge amount of Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) criticism where critics talk about illusions and the narrative’s meta-filmic aspects. It seems extraordinary to me that the gigantic commitment of the narrative to theatre issues is something that can and is almost completely overlooked in countless careful and sensitive analysis of the film. Hitchcock’s creation of specifically cinematic illusion, the ways in which film apparatus is examined and critiqued captures our attention so naturally that theatre’s large share in the story fails to be noticed. In fantasy terms, Vertigo has the power to hide something that can just as legitimately or more penetratingly be discussed in theatre terms. Can we be fantasizing in a theatrical frame without knowing it?

Why is the film narrative so bent on hiding those elements?

Speaking more generally, I think it comes down to the nature of a film’s necessary embeddedness in the time when it was made, and the ways of looking and thinking that are part of that time. The fact that new generations of film critics cannot easily believe in so many film storytelling strategies from the past (to say nothing of the aesthetic and moral sophistication of Hollywood movies) is worth noting. Black and white films all seem artificial to a great many students, all the performances are “old” and overscaled and for some students and contemporaries it seems that nearly any movie from the studio era is marked with excessive theatricality.

Curtains of Light | State University of New York Press

I mention in The Lost Weekend chapter, in the 1940s as soon as directors started using real locations, the very fact that this is becoming a possible “norm” can throw a kind of theatrical veil over anything that looks like a studio set. Prior to actual cameras moving around in city streets and scenes taking place in authentic locations, the previous studio-based reality had sufficient solidity and connection with the world as viewers knew it. Before the late 40s, it wasn’t something that asked to be doubted or seen as artificial. “Imitations of life” and the kind of experience any version of imitation affords us naturally affects our judgment, participation, and the quality of our believing. How the viewer enters the film world and is led to move back and forth between acceptance and questioning deeply affects this whole theatre / film dichotomy and interrelationship.

From my experience as a theatre practitioner even a mediocre or a bad film for the longest time seemed to be considerably more entertaining than a bad play. Bad movies nowadays seem to be closing the gap with bad plays. It seems to me when a film is to my taste or inclination or perspective, I can still be richly rewarded. In the past, however, it was more common for popular movies to have good stretches and bad stretches. There might be a terrific scene, or a memorable detail or performance when lots of other elements didn’t catch fire. This is certainly not the general view, but my feeling as a too often disenchanted spectator is that the majority of current franchise movies have learned how to fail in a weirdly consistent fashion, from start to finish. They smoothly maintain the desired unity: a level of undistinctive, unspontaneous, conceptual sameness.

We don’t really leave theatre behind. So many old directors cunningly introduced versions of theatrical curtains at various points in their narratives, which gently nudge us in the direction of a realignment of perspective. We are invited to be conscious of the way in which the stage is concurrently both theatrically performative and cinematic.”

Tell us more about your work with actors on stage and theatre practices used.

In theatre actors, of course, have the immense satisfaction and power of going from the beginning all the way to the end in sequence, controlling the flow and development. Film is very much a director’s and an editor’s medium. In theatre actors get to put together little pieces as best they can and keep the whole dramatic progression alive for themselves. Their energy builds and feeds on all that has gone before. But that notion of controlling the performance and experiencing it in that natural, ongoing state – This is where I begin, these are the given circumstances and now things begin to alter and complicate and I must take these additional problems on, always in relation to where have I been on stage just five minutes ago.

What I love about the two-stage audition scene in Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001) is its way of overturning so many of our assumptions about what character and performing are, and how amusing make-believe turns without warning into engrossing urgency. It is clear beyond question when Betty and Rita have their little line reading rehearsal of the audition text in the kitchen that the script is inert and dreadful. Everything is on the nose, the dialogue has no layers, has no nuance, has nothing that even a very good actor can work with. When we enter the audition room with Betty somewhat later, the two things we are sure of is that the scene itself is lousy and at best Betty can be marginally better than she was in the rehearsal we observed. We anticipate disaster as a likely outcome. What happens within that dialogue frame is that all of her internal dynamics which the film has, to this point, consistently denied (say, in relation to her own sexuality, in relation to complexity of attitude and response) suddenly come bubbling up and the figure named Betty is gone. The actress standing in her place who confronts us within the “badly written” scene is existing in fundamentally different ways for us on the screen. It’s not just a better performance. A character is being born out of this previously flat two-dimensional confection. The things that this newly-minted being knows and feels are not just available to her but to us, the audience.

Theatre at first seems to be nothing but a millstone (pretending to believe in empty phrases) and then in Betty’s audition for the film, it is still theatre, but it is also film in a manner worth thinking about. We seem to tunnel through theatre to arrive at the true nature of cinema. The role playing and transformation Betty goes through in the audition scene are fundamentally theatrical. Throughout its length, Mulholland Dr. deconstructs sound and space and its own story, yet it seems to me that when Betty has disappeared and we get into the world where she is a failed actress with a broken lesbian relationship, desperately alone and either slicing her wrist or masturbating, at that confounding point viewers are still able to stay connected to the movie and not be merely baffled and impatient with the pile-up of implausibilities. If we remain inside the film experience, we may be telling ourselves this is FILM reality in relation to something previous that was different. We relocate the boundaries between film and theatre and say okay- what she is doing now, what she is suffering this is a substantial upping of the ante of reality in the world of the film but of course there is nothing static about the sense of reality that we have achieved at such stages. What we have left behind after Betty’s transformations, we might describe as mental theatre, but when the earlier scenes were taking place, the theatre curtains of the performing self were not visible to us.

What does a greater awareness of theatre practices bring to the film medium?

Theatre is directly and explicitly foregrounded in film. Bresson’s strictures notwithstanding, it’s almost inescapable. However, the ways that theatre and film interpenetrate seem much less likely to be discussed in the current phase of film theory and criticism. At the present moment, if one wants to sound like a film-savvy person one would, of course, do well to mention mise-en-scene, framing and camera movement, cutting, the lighting, production design, as all of these things belong to a film, and constitute so much of its form. Nevertheless, all of these obviously filmic properties can effectively obscure the important, powerful and persisting phenomenon of things coming from the theatre realm.

The 10 Most Memorable Olivia De Havilland Movie Performances | Taste Of  Cinema - Movie Reviews and Classic Movie Lists

We don’t really leave theatre behind. So many old directors cunningly introduced versions of theatrical curtains at various points in their narratives, which gently nudge us in the direction of a realignment of perspective. We are invited to be conscious of the way in which the stage is concurrently both theatrically performative and cinematic. William Wyler plays off setting in depth which he is so fond of (and which he associates with film) with various theatre-inflected strategies. In The Heiress (William Wyler, 1949) , for example, all of the props in the film become resonant as crucial features of characters “performances” for one another. Only Catherine Sloper, in the film’s first half, is capable of handling objects without calculation or design. She is artless, and assumes that objects, like the people around her, communicate their meaning directly. For her father, her aunt, and her suitor Morris Townsend, objects partake of the disguise of those who employ them. They are subtle traps, intended to blind, seduce, hold authentic feelings at a distance. Catherine Sloper (Olivia deHavilland) initially seems not to be alive to theatre surrounding her, but as her painful education goes on she becomes more and more rigidly entombed in theatrical behaviour herself. The objects she allows to express her begin to express a cold withdrawal from life. Objects are psychological lenses for everything in the movie, and yet their illumination is steadily theatrical. Wyler’s method here is another route by which theatrical space integrates with film.

How does the space define the type of theatrical practices available to film?

One thing older generation of directors understood is the imaginative use of the limited space. Give them the smallest space imaginable, whether it be a lifeboat or couple’s apartment in Dial M for Murder or Jimmy Stewart’s room in Rear Window, spaces that reek of theatre confinement and staginess. Directors were challenged to make these spaces extraordinarily cinematic without needlessly severing the ties with theatre.

Take out a chair to demonstrate something (as in the first dialogue scene in Vertigo) and you have a theatre in which Scotty is attempting to both prove something and act it out. The film world backing this little stage on which Scotty tests his mettle suddenly discloses a true abyss, right behind this comfortable little chair with three steps on it, which would seem an easy thing to master.

The game of dying on stage is a very interesting aspect in your book.

For some reason Hamlet is the play for me that contains everything I love most about theatre. Hamlet, of course, is even more exhaustively analysed than Vertigo. Something that struck me that almost no one ever talks about in their readings of Hamlet is the duel. The duel seems to be something so self-evident and straight forward but in fact is the point in which Hamlet leaves his mind’s labyrinthine explorations behind and is able to demonstrate physical prowess. The space of the duel is also the first theatre space where Hamlet is completely unaware of the plot against him, of which the audience has a full. grasp, something that is organised behind his back and something that is going to kill him. But it seems that everything is shifting here from the internal, for Hamlet who sees, thinks and feels so capaciously, to the external. Hamlet’s ferocious mental activity has utterly disconnected him from everyone in his world and all of sudden he is now presenting himself to the court (and to the spectator) as a physical being, comfortable with an assigned ritual task. Everything locked within sealed mental spaces suddenly begins to emerge, to become outwardly visible in the final minutes of the play with all of these interlocking death scenes. The internal finds a way out in dying, but so many secrets are revealed as the characters’ agency and scheming come so startlingly to a halt.

Is Catherine Sloper kind of Hamlet figure herself?

An interesting test in the last part of the The Heiress which many spectators don’t quite pass on a first viewing has to do with Morris’s final attitude toward Catherine. Obviously, Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift ) was a manipulator, was not during his initial courtship at all in love with Catherine. He was hoping to get her inheritance. All that is the truth, and yet it seems to me when he comes back near film’s end, he is in certain meaningful ways a somewhat different figure than he was before. Catherine cannot see that, audiences are similarly inclined to a certain blindness because of their shared hurt, at the extent of Morris’s betrayal. But what he actually sees in Catherine now is very different from what he saw earlier. And it exceeds the fact of her wealth. It is not that we want Catherine to accept Morris at the end, but it might benefit her to recognize that Morris’s current declared regard for her is not simply another lie, a sham. What Catherine has inherited from her father is the settled belief that she is unlovable. (Yes, in a way Austin Sloper is as sinister a force in her later life, after he dies, as the ghost of Hamlet’s father.) Anyone who claims to see her in a favorable light is undoubtedly attempting to get something from her. Catherine, like Hamlet, protects herself from belief in others. She is becoming her father to the extent that she internalizes his verdict that no one could value her for herself. No one’s profession of caring for her is to be trusted. Because no one ever likes Dr. Sloper, so brilliantly played by Ralph Richardson, I often ask students in class, if you don’t happen to love your child, for whatever reason, and if you really can’t overcome this deficiency, what then do you do ? It’s not an easy question to answer. Nevertheless he gives her every opportunity, every lesson confident she will not succeed, but no one can say she was not granted as much exposure to the world as possible. Because he doesn’t love her he can’t see what is there. And similarly, Catherine Sloper becomes incapable seeing past her father’s judgement of her. Her inability to somehow see her father whole, by detaching from his dreadful, angry rejection of her, comes back through all of these objects (which she has inherited along with his house, a house she has never left) as a kind of deeply constricting, asphyxiating imprisonment. Morris may now be capable of falling in love with her, as she is. But she can’t locate who she is, nor can she believe that anyone else can either. Morris is locked out at the end of the film, but Catherine is just as surely locked in.

When I was a graduate student there was a huge distrust of feeling among all my teachers of literature as well as my fellow grad students. Feeling was always within dangerous hailing distance of sentimentality and ideas would be spoiled if you surrendered to feeling too much while pursuing them. My whole subsequent academic career, because there was so much resistance and profound suspicion and fear of feeling in the 1970s, has been concerned to address and counter this suspicion that feelings are somehow at odds not only with reasoned argument but with complexity. To make feeling the watch word seemed like an attractive proposition to me, not to artificially separate emotion from intellect. Film is great at showing things without declaring feelings and it seems that writing good descriptions of action, almost imitating what the screen is already doing, shows how the feeling can emerge without being precisely named or categorised. That’s the best way to get inside what Wim Wenders memorably described as “emotion pictures.”

For better or worse, the elucidation of feeling in art has been my calling. It’s certainly there in every portion of The Curtains of Light.

To say that the theatre and the mechanisms that we use in theatre should help us understand the feeling and not be afraid of it?

Exactly. The theatre is always at least in the right hands, a double-edged thing. I noticed in the preface to the script of Lust, Caution (2007) by Ang Lee where he talks about the author of the original story, Eileen Chang. He said: “she understood play acting and mimicry as something by nature cruel and brutal. Animals, like her characters, use camouflage to evade their enemies and lure their prey.” But then he turns it around in the next sentence in a wonderfully apt way “But mimicry and performance are also ways we open ourselves as human beings to greater experience, indefinable connections to others, higher meanings, art and the truth.

I like that constant up and down, the way that this childlike concept “play acting” reduces then enlarges, offering us new ways and versions of ourselves.”

The desire to put on a lab coat, which film academics so often tried to do in the late seventies and eighties – they wanted to be scientist s, they thought that feelings deprived them of objectivity, too mushy, they wanted to talk about power, not love. Power being more REAL than love, it was commonly assumed. You can deduce motive and reveal the logic of power relationships in what seems a tangible fashion. How airy-fairy and incommunicable, by contrast, the workings of love.

It seemed we made a full circle, as we are back in the power realm. Sociologically and emotionally. The era of irony and mistrust. Talking about feelings, immediately brings to mind Douglas Sirk’s emotionally laden films.

Nearly everyone now talks about Sirk’s irony as though that is what gives his films value -the subtle subversion of melodramatic feeling, and yes the irony is for sure operative. What Far From Heaven by Todd Haynes attempted to do is to steer us away from emotion and let us just look at the irony and be able to say this is what the fifties were and weren’t. Whereas Sirk films provide this incredible feeling assault in relation to concurrent irony without either one of them having to give ground. And that is an amazing feature of his films.

The way in which Lana Turner’s mannerism, self-consciousness, her actor-ishness and removal from a direct connection with her feelings without Sirk necessarily cueing her in. I don’t think Sirk told her “We are going to make you an ironic character” in Imitation of Life. Instead he would likely urge her “Do what you understand, make the character as real for yourself as possible.” Sirk sees something about Turner that will work beautifully in relation to the phrase imitation of life. And to make her aware of that would probably drastically lessen the effectiveness of the showing.

I wanted to do a whole teaching course on theatre in the 1920s and 1930s as route to transcendence and discovering what cinema is. A sublime example I didn’t include in my book is Cecil B.DeMille”s Cleopatra from 1934 where we have all these theatrical presentations in a barge, as part of Cleopatra’s effort to seduce Marc Antony. The theatrical dimensions are constantly stressed. And in the culmination we have this pull back, where everything becomes this astounding cinematic space as the result of all the theatrical unveilings that have preceded it. But it seems to me that we don’t entirely leave theatre” behind”. Cinema gradually declares its full, autonomous presence after a series of theatrical unveilings.It is one of those spectacles, especially common in the transitional late 20s-early 30s era when sound comes into its own as a necessary dimension of film. Film’s own prerogatives and powers declare themselves through feats of transformation of conspicuous theatrical devices. Theatre provides a yellow brick road to get us to cinema’s Emerald City.

It is like that moment, one of my favorite moments in any movie, in Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939) when an actor “skeleton” in a thrift shop costume dances on a makeshift stage and “ghosts,” garbed in sheets, leave the official stage and invade the audience. While still very much theatrical personages they somehow bring real death closer to the spectators. One feels real ghosts, real terror, real death has been somehow freed from their theatrical confinement and are actually presenting themselves. The audience members can’t quite see and feel what we, the film spectators, do. They are playfully fending it off but what we as audience are genuinely seeing is the stealthy advance death itself. Theatre becomes briefly the primary realm and then we return to film, its power somehow redoubled, as something initially artificial becomes a disturbing conduit to heightened reality. In Stanley Cavell’s words it can never be determined in advance what your experience is. You think you know in advance what theatre is and what it can accomplish, do, but you don’t. And you don’t know where theatre stands comfortably in relation to its kissing cousin: film.

Tanja Bresan holds a masters degree in art and cultural studies from the University of Arts, Belgrade. Her writing on film had appeared in several online journals including Berlin Film Journal and IndieKino Berlin.

Read also:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *