Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Marat/Sade (1967)


Few people claim to understand the motivation or exactly what's happening at the core of Peter Weiss' play about the Marquis de Sade and Charenton Asylum inmates' staging of a play about the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat. As directed for the British stage by Peter Brook however, it caused a sensation and sold truckloads of tickets on the path towards Broadway and a Tony.

Brook's movie adaptation is presumably faithful, since the stark stage setting is retained, the performances (by the original Royal Shakespeare Company players) are pitched for the back row and the dense, elliptical dialogue doesn't betray a whiff of a movie producer. Brook doesn't 'open up' the play in traditional - and traditionally catastrophic - terms, but he does adopt a loose, bracing visual style that justifies it as a worthwhile work of cinema. Between the stylish visuals, committed players and the unhinged, arresting nature of the play itself, there's plenty to absorb here. But you don't shake the feeling that you're missing out on the much more intense experience of seeing it on stage.

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