Posts Tagged ‘Elephant Man’

Blackpaint 250

February 10, 2011

Frankenstein at the Olivier

Danny Boyle director and Nick Dear, writer – or rather, adaptor of Mary Shelley’s original.  But the important thing for the audience, which contained a number of excited teenage girls, was Benedict Cumberbatch playing the monster, and to a lesser extent, Jonny Le Miller, playing Victor.  They are going to alternate the roles.

The first 20 minutes or so were fantastic.  Cumberbatch was naked on stage, being “born” from a pulsing, pod-like womb (Body Snatchers, definitely not Spinal Tap); then flip-flopping prostrate like a fish; then swiftly learning to get to his hands and feet, then stand, shakily upright and walk, after a fashion.  There were clear references (I’m avoiding the use of “channeling” here, I hope other pedants will note) to Muybridge and Bacon – the crippled boy walking on all fours – and, above all, Blake.  I think it was the stance; upright, straight-legged, head thrown back – and perhaps the washes of light from the wide ribbon of light bulbs in the “ceiling”.

Then, the Industrial Revolution arrived, in the form of a train, loaded with working men and women who began laying about the stage with sledgehammers and tools – Metropolis – and soon the monster acquired a cloak and a jeering mob – the Elephant Man.  Later in the play, Dickens, in the shape of the children’s costumes, especially the cap of the little boy. The programme mentions Fuseli, but I must have missed that.

I had the feeling throughout that I was watching a musical; I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if someone had burst into song (there was some dancing, flamenco-ish guitar music and something that sounded rather like “Wimoweh” – ask the grandparents).  There was a great revolving stage, luminous huts descending, a mansion facade that also served as a ship at one point, and made reference to Kay Neilson.

I have to say that, as soon as we were back to straight, “naturalistic” exposition, everything went very flat; I was continually waiting for the next spectacle.  There were about four or five of these, I suppose.  In fact, I would have been happy if the whole thing had been done like the first sequence – as a sort of combination of mime, ballet, performance art, spectacle, and music.

There is a rather operatic rape, by the way; a man somewhere behind me was obviously shocked; “Oh no, oh dear “, he gasped in dismay.  The teenagers were undisturbed, needless to say.

National Gallery

Took a turn round the “modern” bit; especially the Degas(es) – what is the proper plural? – that never fail to astound me.  Those two “red” ones, just look at the hands, and the portrait of the pudgy little girl with the challenging stare.  Then, there is the little one of Princess Pauline de Metternich; I bet she wasn’t happy about the bags under her eyes.  What was Degas – an Impressionist? If so, it shows the limitations of these terms, two artists like, say, Degas and Monet yoked together…

That Ingres woman in the dress is Mme Moitessier, a banker’s wife, not a landlady as I said in previous blog.  A chap was copying the picture – I avoided mentioning that it took Ingres 12 years to finish.

A couple of horrible Vuillards; Madame Wormser and her kids.  I hate that acid greeny-blue, bluey green.

Turner’s Ulysses escaping from Polyphemus; how many ships in the picture?  I think four.

Finally, Hogarth’s “Marriage a la Mode”; the last, grim painting in the series, in which the mistress has poisoned herself and the servant who supplied the poison looks on in horror; I was reminded strongly of Madame Bovary, not surprisingly, since I have just reread it.  What is remarkable is that I am also reading “Vanity Fair” – and on Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451” the other night, the firemen hurled a bookcase to the floor prior to burning it and two of the books that fell from it, on which the director chose to focus in close up, were Bovary and Vanity Fair. Coincidence, you say?  I think perhaps not, my sceptical reader…

Sorry again, re-used image; new stuff from now on.

Blackpaint

10.02.11

Advertisements