Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cries and Whispers at BAM

Last summer Carey Mulligan starred in what amounted to a staged reading of the Bergman script Through a Glass Darkly. The Flemish director’s Ivo van Hove’s Cries and Whispers is as much a transformation of Bergman as say Peter Brook’s Midsummer Night’s Dream was of Shakespeare. Bergman was firmly the artist in control of his characters in his original movie. In van Hove’s adaptation his dying character is the artist, creating in this case a multi-media (video and painting) rendition of her own death. Where Cries and Whispers might have recalled Chekhov’s Three Sisters in the powerful relationships created, van Hove’s work is reminiscent of the artist Hannah Wilke’s documentation of her own demise. Pictures are constantly being generated and remind us that we are a culture of image collectors. The collecting of the images takes the place of memory and even contains an element of wishful thinking. If we are too busy recording ourselves will there be no time to die? What are we humans going to do with all the pictures we ceaselessly take? That is not a question van Hove is asking, but it’s a good question to ask in a digital age in which pictures are so facilely rendered that there will never be enough hours in anyone’s life to see them all. The first half of the current production is literally disembodied even as the dying Agnes (Chris Nietvelt) is figuratively disemboweled. But the further away it drifts from Bergman’s narrative the closer it comes to the spirit of the great master and there is one scene between Karin (Janni Goslinga) and Maria (Helena Reijn) which has the dramatic power of Persona. Bergman's Cries and Whispers employed intense colors (in particular red, white and black) and to that extent was a product of its time. The narcissistic self recording which characterizes van Hove's Cries and Whispers is what makes the current production timely. Be prepared besides an Alice in Wonderland set composed of projections and silhouettes this Cries and Whispers features a soundtrack highlighted by Janis Joplin singing Cry Baby.

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