Saturday, October 19, 2013

The frown in Beckett's What Where

Today, at the Australian premiere of the new English language film production of Beckett's What Where, which is yet to be released, the actor who played V and hence was on screen for the entire running of the single eight minute take -- for which it had been necessary to make twenty seven attempts -- told us after the screening that he'd lost his voice as the filming progressed and even now (nearly one year later) it had not recovered. The actors had had to strip all the emotion from their voices. They also had to stay completely still during takes; they weren't to blink -- even when their eyes were closed, they had to keep their eyeballs from moving.

In the accompanying documentary, the director (Asmus) describes the way that, unlike for his other television productions, Beckett did not arrive with a predetermined plan for What Where. Originally the actors were to be upright, as in the staged show -- at one point, we learned, Beckett had even thought of giving them fezzes to wear (an allusion to 'the political situation in Turkey', according to Asmus) -- but in the end, in the German production, as we heard from the Australian producer (Uhlmann) today, the actors were confined to dentists' chairs -- just as in this production they were made to sit in chairs that had added contraptions to keep the heads still that the cinematographer/ editor (Denham) had made. Uhlmann told us that it had been Asmus's suggestion to Beckett -- once it had become clear that there were no longer to be heads with bodies on the screen as there were on stage, but heads alone -- that the actors close their eyes rather than bow when their faces re-emerged from the dark.

After the screening, one of actors told us that he'd noticed (in the finished film) the slightest suggestion of a frown on one of the other actors when he re-emerged with his eyes closed -- a frown which Uhlmann and Denham admitted that they had never noticed (and which Asmus would very likely have wanted to expunge had his attention been drawn to it in time) -- and that this had made him think that this character -- whose name he'd forgotten just as he'd already forgotten the name of his own character -- that this character, alone among all of them, had moral integrity.

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