SHORT REVIEWS (02): LA MADRE / THE MOTHER
La madre / The Mother, de Jean-Marie Straub, Switzerland, 2012
By Roger Koza
A pertinent quote by Jacques Rancière: “At the end of the 70s, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet sub- stituted Brecht —the communist playwright and master of dialectical certitude— with Communist writer Pavese, who confirms the return of the old order to the highlands where partisans had been operating and questions the possibility that the world of hills, arable land, and harvests might not be compatible with the promises of a revolutionary change.” La madre is based in one of Cesare Pavese’s Dialogues with Leuco, although the political dimension is not predominant in this text. The dilemma is related to a more intimate realm.
The formal procedure is well known: two actors of the Teatro Comunale di Buti, Giovanna Daddi and Dario Marconcini, recite the texts on a natural scenario practically without any historical or social references; only things to be seen are the woods, a bench, and an imperceptible house. A hunter tries to understand why his mother killed him not long after he killed someone else. His conversational partner is a goddess who tries to explain to the deceased the complexity of the bonds established with a mother.
For this dialogue, the two characters are never together in the same visual field, but that doesn’t stop Straub from using an orthodox reverse-angle shot to follow the conversation —made up by a text being repeated with some changes in the framing. This conception of the mise-en-scène is complemented with a notion of orality distant from the historical changes and transformations experimented by any language in its speech at any historic time. This escape from time and space maybe entails a predisposition towards distraction, but it is thus that Straub(s)’ cinema conspires against the commercialization of the image and the word. An untimely cinema, it is therefore revolutionary and capable of recreating in front of the camera the primal strength of the body and of nature.
Roger Koza / Copyleft 2013
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