Monday, February 20, 2006

Feodor Dostoevsky

The ex-Yugoslavia implosion through Karamazov Bros ' eyes...

Tomaz Pandur's "100 Minutes"
A production from the Ljubljana Festival by the Slovenian Theatre Director Tomaz Pandur came to town. Called "100 Minutes" (the duration of the play) it tries to exorcise the experience of war in the former Yugoslavia through the vehicle of Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov".
As the production notes tell us:
" 'The Brothers Karamazov" is one of the more savages works by Dostoevsky: corruption, vice, perversion, violent sex, murders, evilness, parricide, rapes, abuses, infamy: Sodoma". The Director selected that work to establish a resemblance with the bloodl-lustful war in former Yugoslavia: the four brothers Karamazov (if one adds Smerdiakov, the bastard half-brother and manservant of the household) and their father are the four or five (sic) Nations that were dilacerated apart after the death of Tito, who kept them together despite their many differences: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Montenegro". The notes add: " It is as a reproduction in a very onirical tone and erotic reaching madness, of that terrible war. The only good thing Tito had left for their mutual understanding is a common language: Servo-croat".
The show is in fact quite effective indeed in portraying the "feel-awful factor" of a war . Violence was masterly conveyed. Helped by the carefully selected very loud, very "metallic" weird music (including from the orgy scene of Kubrik's "Eyes Wide Shut") and the superb work of the actors who have the menacing body language and the bodies to match. Corruption, vice, perversion.. etc, etc (see above) are all there. (The epileptic seizures of Smerdiakov were particularly uncomfortable to watch, a sure proof of its scenic efficiency). As to the erotical content and the efficacy of the (violent/perverted) sex-scenes I'm not so sure. Faked violence can be in itself violent but can faked intercourse convey more than plastic, faked sex?It's like violence work better in a live play than in movies but regarding sex it's the other way around.
One needed a minimal knowlegde of Dostoevsky's Brothers K. not to loose what Pandur was trying to underline ( and I'm proud to say that I re-read the metaphysical adventures of Ivan, Dmitri, Alioscha and Co. last Summer). In particular, the diabolical lines from Ivan about the immediate corollary of the inexistence of God ("If He does not exist everything is allowed then") . War as the supreme example of where our journey is aimed at when we all let ourselves go.
A tremendous loophole in the otherwise exemplary structure has to be pointed out though. In a play where all the religious imagery was Orthodox Christian and all the Nations/Brothers roles were assigned, where was the Kosovar/Albanian dimension? Where were the Muslim Albanians of Kosovo and FYROM? Where was the non-SerboCroat linguistic world?
No one ever learns anything? Reading the "Brothers Karamazov" and carrying on is not enough.

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