I am in the happy position of not being likely to be forgotten never having been known

July 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

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After the deaths of Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman on the same day in July 2007, I turned on BBC2’s Newsnight to see what sort of coverage the demise of two giants of cinema merited. By the end of the item, I’d learned a couple of useful lessons.

First, it’s much less fun kicking in a flat-screen TV than one of the old cathode-ray tubes…

Given its formal beauty and timeless mystery, Antonioni’s work would not be out of place in an art gallery. But putting it on stage: how might that work? This was the challenge that the Belgian theatre director Ivo van Hove set his company Toneelgroep Amsterdam in their Antonioni Project, which was staged at the Barbican in February. It was an ambitious, flawed but worthwhile experiment in adapting the director’s 1960s ‘trilogy’ of L’avventura (1960), La notte (1961) and L’eclisse to the stage.

Or rather, not the films, but the screenplays. In interviews, Van Hove was keen to stress that he hadn’t actually seen L’avventura, but I’m not sure I believe this.

I spent the first half of the two-hours-plus production checking off scenes I recognised – the minute’s silence in the Rome stock exchange from L’eclisse; the extended party sequence from La notte; the search for the missing girl on the deserted island in L’avventura: all were present and correct.

After a while, I gave up, as scenes and characters from the films mingled on stage amidst the complex multi-media choreography of a live jazz band, cameramen filming the action, and real-time projections on huge screens. Paradoxically, van Hove managed to transform Antonioni’s stark, abstract mise en scène into a teeming, baroque circus reminiscent of Fellini.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Jaume Navarro

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