Day 20: Federico León / Castellucci’s ‘Paradiso’

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Whoa! What a trip! I bet Calvin & Hobbes would say. All stages of life in less than an hour and as a extra bonus: to heaven and back in three minutes. Or what happens if you go from Federico León to Romeo Castellucci.

Damn. I regret not having seen any previous films or plays by Federico León. I met quite a few people who spoke highly of his other performances and were really eager to see new work by the Argentinian actor/filmmaker/director. I wonder if they were as disappointed as I was by Yo en el futuro.

But maybe that’s too harsh a conclusion. Because Yo en el futuro certainly is a smart and poetic piece of work. It goes back to a tradition in Argentine cinemas, in which short plays preceded the screening of a movie. In Yo en el futuro León combines theatre and movie in a clever way. On stage you see three children, three adolescents and three elderly people. On the screen you see them too. There’s not an awful lot happening, but it’s just enough for an intriguing, slow-paced and dream-like performance, full of ‘mirrors’; one that’s playing with the remote control of life and time.

It’s just that the performance takes only 45 minutes. You’re left with the feeling that León could have done so much more with this. All the ingredients were at his disposal, but now Yo en el futuro somehow never really surpasses the ‘gimmick’-level, whereas you sense this could have been a really compelling piece of work.

On to paradise then. I hope you won’t have to queue too long to be granted access to Castellucci’s heaven. Paradiso is the last part of his Divina commedia-trilogy: a huge cube in the Brigittines Chapel. A ‘vision’ that the spectator enters alone, for a few minutes.

I quite liked the fact that instead of stepping inside the light, as one would expect with paradise, Castellucci makes you step into the dark. Through the same black circle that was the final image of his Purgatorio. I won’t disclose what the Italian director offers you as his vision of paradise. I will tell you though that this time it did have an impact on me. It made me think, wonder, guess and dream. Until someone tapped me on the shoulder, telling me it was time to leave.

(photo credit: Academie Anderlecht – Wim Pannecoucke)

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