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BURNING DOWN THE PALACE
von David Finkelstein in Film Threat , 17.04.2013
 
BURNING DOWN THE PALACE (DVD)


Year Released: 2009
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 98 minutes
Click to Expand Credits:
by Mara Mattuschka and Chris Haring
Music and sound design by Andreas Berger (GLIM)
with:
Luke Baio
Stephanie Cumming
Alexander Gottfarb
Katharina Meves
Anna Maria Nowak
Johnny Shoofs
Ulrike Kinn Swennson
Giovanni Scarcella









The performers, who collaborated with Haring to develop the material for the original performance work, are all compelling and bold both in movement and voice work, and they evidently have found a way to tap into a deep, inner wellspring of images, movements, and language. The sound design, by Glim, uses an interesting array of electronics to distort and enhance the voices. The editing, camerawork, and visual style are all first-rate. A fourth character (Giovanni Scarcella) is not developed, and could probably have been cut from the piece, and altogether the piece probably could have been tightened even further, but it is never less than fascinating.



Meanwhile, in their lunch conversation, Cumming is overwhelmed (as many of us are) by the ordinary stresses of middle class life: job, marriage, money. Subtly, the piece makes a convincing argument that the overwhelming stress of contemporary life is similar to being a figure in a video game: pushed and pulled violently by unseen controllers. Schoofs embodies this stress in an amazing performance of an extended panic attack.

The theme of stress and the tendency of contemporary life to flatten all experience into a surface reality with no internal dimension is explored through several more oblique, poetic and fascinating vignettes, including one in which the performers, suddenly aware of their nakedness, scream and humiliate each other (to the sounds of Vivaldi), and another in which they dissect the plot of a Japanese movie about family members who treat each other as little more than objects. Considering the cool, formalized, and abstract style of the piece, it is striking how the sadness which comes from the loss of personal space and personal connection becomes palpable while watching this film, but then again the tension between these two qualities is precisely the point.











Posted on April 14, 2013 in Reviews by David Finkelstein

 
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