Peter Brook directed this film of his seminal stage production of the play-within-a-play by Peter Weiss. (It's actually a musical, with more than a dozen songs.) In combining Brechtian techniques with some of the lessons of theatrical philosopher Antonin Artaud, Weiss's play was a landmark
of the 60s that seemed to be exploiting everything the theater could do that film could not. Brecht suggested distancing audiences; Artaud demanded the opposite--total involvement. Many fans of the play went to see the film only to prove that this stuff couldn't work on celluloid. It does.
MARAT/SADE takes as its starting point a Parisian custom of the early 1800s, when it was the fashion for sophisticated audiences to attend theatrical performances acted out by the inmates of mental hospitals as part of their therapy. In Weiss's play, an audience arrives at Charenton to see a piece
written by the Marquis de Sade (Magee), a patient at the hospital. De Sade has dramatized the bathtub assassination of French Revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat (Richardson) by Charlotte Corday (Jackson), using the historical event to anchor an imaginary debate between him and Marat on the
relations between politics, sexuality and violence. After the performance, de Sade explains to the audience that his drama was intended to stimulate thought about these thorny issues; meanwhile, though, the patient-actors, carried away by the play's rhetoric, rise up in violent revolt.
Geoffrey Skelton and Adrian Mitchell translated Weiss's play, which opened in Berlin in April 1964. The members of the Royal Shakespeare Company, who did the London stage production, are used again here. Brook is a filmmaker as well as a master of the modern theater and he, perhaps uniquely,
understood how to translate something so stagey and theatrical onto the screen. The result is an important--and eminently watchable--record of a turning point in western theater.
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- Review: Peter Brook directed this film of his seminal stage production of the play-within-a-play by Peter Weiss. (It's actually a musical, with more than a dozen songs.) In combining Brechtian techniques with some of the lessons of theatrical philosopher Antonin A… (more)