Our perspective never changes…


Birdman, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2014

From The Threepenny Review:

I think the main reason for my aversion to the theater is the cinema. For someone brought up from childhood on that particular representative art, what the stage can offer is bound to seem relatively poor, stylized, and unconvincing. In the cinema, you’re given every possible point of view, that of the viewer, but also that of all the characters, even that of a plane, an eagle, or a snake, or indeed God; you see the action and the actors from a distance and from close up, obliquely, on the move, and there is, of course, no problem in making shifts in time and space. You get to see both the inside of a room and a ship battered by a storm, you catch the actors’ most subtle expressions or looks, you can witness the past and the present and even the imagined future, you can jump from one scenario to another and still another. In the theater, though, our perspective never changes: the characters remain always at the same distance from us, we can barely see their faces, our enduring sensation is one of impotence. And I cannot easily shake off the alienating effect of the comparatively poor scenery. It bothers me that the décor is so obvious, that the doors are so clearly false, that when someone turns on a tap, water doesn’t necessarily come out.

Ah, but if it was only that. If it was only the technical deficiencies of traditional theater, the theater of yesteryear, I could ignore them and accept the rules of the game and the conventions.

The biggest problem for me is that the theater of the age I live in has almost always tried to be “innovative” and “modern.” And that supposed innovation and modernity often consists in such infelicities as these: if it’s a classic work, you almost never see that work, but a version, adaptation, or recreation by some sly contemporary who thus pockets all the money, given that Sophocles, Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Molière, Goldoni, and other such luminaries are all out of copyright.

“Why I Hate the Theater”, Javier Marías, Threepenny Review