For a change I’ll keep this brief.
Couple questions raised for me. Draw your own conclusions. (To be handed in at the box office.)
1) Why World War I? The Great War. The Netherlands were able to remain neutral during this war, which to me raises all sorts of interesting issues about what it took to achieve that, and how that history lives in the present. Any connection to Hotel Modern‘s thinking on this (see Extra Credit below)?
1a) Was this choice meant to be representative of other, more contemporary, conflicts? Or war in general? Neither of these seem satisfactory to me as motivations for picking this disaster with its deeply ingrained images. Which itself raises more issues about representation, so I remain curious.
1b) The program says “Just like any other war.” But what is not only more interesting to me, but is more important when representing senseless large-scale global violence, I think, is: what makes this particular? What are the specifics, the differences between this war and others? Or between current ongoing wars and That One a century ago? What made either/any possible? No difference? Many differences? Do these play into the performance at all?
1c) Is it actually possible that this was not meant to call these contemporary massacres to mind? If this is true…wha? And why not? (Return to #1.)
1d) If it it was meant to somehow comment on our current condition, I would respectfully question the realization. A general association with these beautifully realized images is not much of a mental stimulant.
2) Why the text? I read All Quiet On The Western Front when my English teacher picked it out for me in 9th grade. Is this literary experience clouding my reception of all other language related to this war (specifically, this production’s)? If not, why did all the text — including the “authentic letters home written by trench soldiers” — seem so familiar?
2b) Why “authentic”? Does it matter?
2.1) “Staggeringly realistic“? More on this red flag below.
2c) Why no credits for text sources? Do they not matter? If not, why not move toward eliminating the text to begin with? They were the weakest part, and the moments without text were among the strongest. (See aphasia.)
2c.02) Over and over again in the publicity material, there is the overt linking of this work with film — and not puppetry (“live animation film” for example, from the program). I am supposing this privileging of the celluloid over the material object is a conscious and purposeful cue to how to position oneself as an audience member. And is related to the structuring of the images on the screen. It Looked like film. Which raises my suspicions. What end does this production serve? I’ve read my Guy Debord, even if I can’t remember it all.
2d.011) Does the fascinating revelation of the means of production temper this effect? Or does it just provide an escape valve? Or is there a more complicated response? (Discuss.)
2q) I was first charmed, then puzzled, then frustrated with the construction of images on screen. Although I agree with my colleague, Mr Kelley-Pegg, that the combination of illusion and revelation were tangibly fascinating to witness in performance (and which I believe my colleague Ms Kayim may also respect, given her previous post) I have questions about the created images themselves. For the most part they tended to reify those that live in our collective (visual/imaginary/conceptual) understanding of this event. They reinforce what we already think about World War One: the trenches, the mud, the movies, the senseless slaughter, the movies, the loss of the innocence of refinement, and the movies. And the highly cinematic use of the cameras and effects tended to support this image which leads me to think it was somehow intended. Which ensuing aestheticization of the experience seems to be contrary to any critical perspective on this — or any conflict. So: how wrong am I? (Response timed.)
2q.b) The heads in the opening section came, saw, and left. I woulda liked them to come back. A post-image internal moment of positioning the war images with (a semi-Brechtian?) critical distance. Or would it?
2r.314159265) Leaving aside the question of whether this work can be described as “realistic,” what does the desire to describe it as such reveal? Are we so antipathetic to the realm of the imagination? Never mind, don’t answer that. Since the reality of the image is in the mind of the audience, is it “staggeringly” (or “astonishingly,” cf website) because you wouldn’t think you could achieve this result via effect (film, puppetry, theatrical, textual, etc.)? Or is it so to reinforce a sense of accuracy and acceptance that otherwise might be relegated to questioning and critical perspective?
See? Only two questions. Brief.
Hotel Modern’s website: “Hotel Modern are idealistic in the sense that they believe the watching and experiencing of theatre can encourage reconciliation.” Does this goal of encouraging reconciliation answer all your questions? Do you have any questions?