“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

"Ich sitze am Tage mit dem Skalpell und die Nacht mit den B�chern." -- G. Buchner.

Limited Inc's sentiments exactly, except that we mix our books with glasses of vodka, and our scalpel is, alas, all metaphor. Really, all day it is our dullard fingers tapping one gray day after another on the keyboard of this computer.
Nicholas Powell's review in the Financial Times, today, of Robert Wilson's direction of Woyzek, which is currently playing in Paris (it has been kicking about Europe for some time, apparently) reminded us of Buchner, and incidentally, the inestimable Bob Wilson, maybe the last of a breed that began in the good old Black Mountain days and is reaching its end in Wilson and the decaying Rauschenberg. Here's the central grafs in the review

"Woyzeck has proved perfect raw material, on the other hand, for American director Robert Wilson, whose version of this soldier's tale, with music and songs by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, is playing at the Theatre de l'Odeon. First produced inCopenhagen with Danish actors, the work is acted in a mixture of English and Danish, using both pre-recorded music and a live, five-piece band.

With its impeccable, meticulous direction and brilliant visual effects - colour-drenched backdrops, startling costumes, quirky props and sophisticated lighting tricks - this Woyzeck is typically Wilsonian and utterly riveting. Visually, Wilson's world sits, without the slightest con-cession to realism, somewhere in a nightmare - that of Woyzeck himself - half way between cabaret and circus. Not only the characters' costumes but also their freakish hairstyles and their features resemble those of sinister clowns or dolls. The exception is Woyzeck himself (Jens Jorn Spottag), a thicker built, unfunny version of Stan Laurel, exuding anxiety and childish incomprehension amid so much apparent evil."

Like everything Buchner ever wrote, (a small select group) Woyzeck exudes a certain lunar shine -- because surely it wasn't written by a man in the 1830s. Nor by a man some twenty years younger than me. Buchner was the man who fell to earth. Most sensibilities are tediously accountable to their times. Limited Inc is all too aware that the unzeitgemassige is lacking in our soul. We tick tick tick with common clocks, alas. But Buchner is an extreme case of a man out of time. You can't read Dantons Tod, or Lenz, or his letters, without astonishment. The man got to the end of the twentieth century while living in a semi-feudal pocket of the 19th.

Here's a fragment of dialogue in Woyzeck that is typical of Buchner. This is the captain growing philosophical while being shaved by Woyzeck, the good dumb soldier:

Es wird mir ganz angst um die Welt, wenn ich an die Ewigkeit denke. Besch�ftigung, Woyzeck, Besch�ftigung! Ewig: das ist ewig, das ist ewig - das siehst du ein; nur ist es aber wieder nicht ewig, und das ist ein Augenblick, ja ein Augenblick - Woyzeck, es schaudert mich, wenn ich denke, da� sich die Welt in einem Tag herumdreht. Was 'n Zeitverschwendung! Wo soll das hinaus? Woyzeck, ich kann kein M�hlrad mehr sehen, oder ich werd melancholisch.

"I get anxious about the world when I think about eternity. Activity, Woyzeck, pure activity! Eternal: that is eternal, that is eternal -- you can see that easily enough. Only there is something that isn't eternal, and that is a second, yes. A second -- Woyzeck, I get the willies when I think that the world turns around in one day. What kind of waste of time is that? What's the good of it? Woyzeck, I can't see a mill wheel anymore without getting melancholic."

That's the kind of dialogue I can imagine in a Coen brother's film -- come to think of it, the last Coen brother's film, The Man who Wasn't There, was a sort of noir Woyzeck. Given the unexpected literary references you come across in Coen films, this is probably not coincidental.

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