PhysicalPublished 5 Oct 2015 at 11:53 by Basje Boer
A common theme occurred to me, a visible trope in the film footage on offer this October, in which internal pain is translated into physical pain, or vice versa. A woman is given a new face, another washes her hands but can’t seem to get them clean, and a third has something growing inside of her, but what that something is isn’t quite clear yet…
She wants her face back. But it’s far too late for that. When the bandages are unravelled, Nelly no longer looks like herself – she is completely unrecognisable. Not only did the war take her entire family away from her, it took her identity away too.
The German Phoenix is simultaneously a war drama – or rather, a post-war drama – and a neo-noir; bringing together the classic theme of mistaken identity with a society that has lost itself. The Jewish Nelly was so wounded during her time entrapped in a concentration camp, she required facial reconstructive surgery by the time she left. But she leaves the hospital so unidentifiable that even her estranged husband couldn’t recognise her.
A woman in white, the basin is black. She sits on the ground and washes her hands. But she can’t wash her hands clean, the blood won’t come off. She doesn’t realise that it is her conscience that is tainted, not her hands.
Guilt that becomes physical: Shakespeare wrote about it in one of his most beloved pieces, Macbeth. Akira Kurosawa filmed the theatrical tragedy as Throne of Blood in 1957, with Toshirô Mifune playing the role of the embittered veteran mentioned in the title. De Toneelmakerij and ICKamsterdam give the play their own twist in a youth production, which brings together dance and theatre.
The disgusting dessert that she eats. The scratches on her back. The necklace she wears around her neck, with a pungent herb in its locket. The changes her body endures, the all-encompassing pain that she feels. The anagram that she figures out by shifting around Scrabble tiles.
All the pink wallpaper and frosted cupcakes aside; if you’re talking about a pregnancy, you’re talking about a creature that is living and growing inside of you. Rosemary’s Baby – first a book by Ira Levin and then a movie by Roman Polanski – appeals to these deep-seated fears associated with the idea of pregnancy. In his film, Polanski makes everything very physical; it’s about taste and smell, about touch and pain. Rosemary is losing weight rapidly, while she should be gaining. And when her appetite finally returns, she only really wants to eat raw meat. It is those small, very physical details that make Rosemary’s Baby a subtle masterpiece within its genre.
Phoenix is screening in Lab111 on 15 October, as part of the Ex-pats Cinema series.
Macbeth, a co-production by Toneelmakerij and ICKamsterdam, can be seen on 10 October in Theater Bellevue.
Rosemary’s Baby is screening on 25 October in De Uitkijk.