Hamlet in Palestine (2017), Nicolas Klotz and Thomas Ostermeier


The relationship between cinema and theatre is well known and well catalogued throughout the history of film criticism and theory. The legacy of theatre at the beginning of cinema, the controversy over "filmed theatre" in the early sound film or even the modern approach by directors like Jacques Rivette, Werner Schroeter or Manoel de Oliveira, all these issues have been debated in a fruitful way. But what happens when, right in the middle of a fast, highly technological and ever-changing age, some contemporary directors decide to approach the old art of theatre again?

Today, there seems to be a new generation of filmmakers (or, in some cases, a renewed approach by veterans) that are explicitly proposing a dialogue with theatre, recovering classic texts, approaching theatrical procedures of mise-en-scène, proposing dissonant acting styles. The recent œuvre of directors like Júlio Bressane, Paul Vecchiali, Rita Azevedo Gomes, Pierre Léon or Matías Piñeiro shows us that theatre-related films are not old-fashioned nor decadent, but one of the most vivid and stimulating traits of contemporary cinema.

Conversely, moving images penetrate theatre. An increasing number of theatre directors, like Thomas Ostermeier, Ivo van Hove, Krystian Lupa or Milo Rau (International Institute of Political Murder), among others, incorporate (recorded or live) moving images in their theatre performances. The inclusion of moving images and cinema/video technology in theatre not only expands the spectator's perception, multiplying the temporal, spatial and narrative layers, but it might also deconstruct theatre's specificities such as the live performance and the scenic spatial unity.

This report tries to deal with some of these intriguing questions: which aesthetical problems are at stake, today, when cinema approaches theatre? And what happens when theatre approaches cinema? What forms and expressions can arise from this encounter? Which filmmakers/theatre directors are proposing the most enthusiastic gestures in this field? In which terms can the performative potential of moving images in theatre be defined? When cinema goes to the theatre or theatre goes to the cinema today, what are they searching for?

The report opens with the article “Quand le théâtre ‘piétina’ le cinéma”, in which Virgilio Mortari focuses on Artaud’s writings to propose a groundbreaking perspective on the French auteur’s conception of the relationship between theatre and cinema. Verônica Veloso provides an extensive overview of contemporary theatrical-cinematic practices. Veloso analyses the work of metteurs en scène such as Arcadi Zaides, Ivo Van Hove, and Thomas Ostermeier, reflecting, in parallel, on her own artistic practice in the conception of ISAURA S/A + 1 experimento hidráulico. In Il teatro nel cinema di Joseph Losey, Toni D’Angela explores the relation between cinema and theatre in the filmography of Joseph Losey. Victor Guimarães writes about some theatrical aspects of Andrea Tonacci’s cinema, particularly in Jouez Encore, Payez Encore (1975), an almost unknown film in which the filmmaker follows a Brazilian troupe rehearsing and presenting a spectacle directed by Victor García in Europe.

Matías Piñeiro writes about his relationship with theatre in detail, commenting the research and the choices behind his so-called Shakespereads, an ongoing series of films inspired by Shakespeare’s comedies. Nicolas Klotz addresses the production process of his film Hamlet in Palestine (2017), co-directed by Thomas Ostermeier. Klotz undertakes a profound reflection on the tensions between theatre and cinema, and their capacity to intervene and change reality.

In a long interview with Sabrina D. Marques, the Portuguese metteur-en-scène Jorge Silva Melo discusses the similarities and differences between theatre and cinema, the specificities of each aesthetic territory and his own biography, marked by a constant transit from one to the other. Finally, answering some questions by Victor Guimarães, filmmakers Rita Azevedo Gomes and Pierre Léon exchange views on their relationship with theatre, in a conversation in which friendship and mutual admiration take the lead in a beautiful way.


Victor Guimarães and Raquel Schefer