Dana Bubulj: Sculpture, Film, Shadows, Art

Their work, words and wonder

Category: Inspiration

Dangerous Liaisons and the Marquise de Merteuil

Dangerous Liaisons @ the Oxford Playhouse (Student production).

Yesterday, I saw Dangerous Liaisons at the Oxford Playhouse (on until 5th May). It was definitely an enjoyable production, well acted. I’ve not read the novel (by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos), so I can’t comment on the adaptation save for comparing it with the films the text has inspired also: Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and Cruel Intentions (1999). Discussions follow, so I feel I should say now I’ve not watched these too recently, so feel free to correct me if I am misremembering.

What I rather liked about this production was its end: a quiet exposition conversation scene between the Marquise de Merteuil, Mesdames de Rosmonde and de Volanges. Discussing recent events of death and despair over tea, the Marquise is subdued, brokenhearted. That was far more affecting than the films, whose endings concentrated on comeuppance.

Not that I’m excusing her actions, but she was a compelling character, manipulating and powerful in her own right. Dangerous Liaisons (1988) has her fall from grace: shunned at the Opera by society. It’s striking: her hunting grounds where she was once queen have now wised up and will no longer engage her. For the time, I would imagine this would be quite the blow. Cruel Intentions (1999) does this in a younger, more modern way: an invasion of privacy (diary pages?) and extreme slut-shaming. Throughout the film we are made to compare the two women in the Vicomte de Valmont’s life: a vivid virgin/whore dichotomy. This is perhaps more apparent because of the setting: having them all roughly the same age rather than the original, where youth and inexperience are led, sought, manipulated and taught by their elders.

The relationship between Valmont and the Marquise has baggage older than some of these characters. Clearly they do love each other, in differing ways: enjoying each other’s company, sharing exploits and spurring each other on. They can talk as equals, or as equal as they can be given the male privilege one has and the other, strikingly, does not. Valmont’s ‘redemption’, as it were, of death, comes after realising (with help) that his feelings for his quarry were heartfelt. Of course, the Marquise has no such redemption, left alone without her closest confidante. (I’ll only get sidetracked if I start my ‘this is another example of where polyamory would sort things’ speech, so I won’t). Actually, that’s another thing about this production: the transition between player-Valmont and lover-Valmont was perhaps too rushed: it was difficult to tell at which point he had stopped play-acting and became more sincere (the occasional smirks to the audience in the initial stages were glorious: it’s clear Ziad Samaha was having great fun with the character). This did result in less pathos to his end. (Oh god, and don’t get me started on the sword fight that made myself and his nibs (both fencers) wince.)

Wrapping up as I realise I should have left a few minutes ago to catch a train:
Very good production: the ‘Bright Young Things’ era clothing/setting worked as a way of grounding the social mores without alienating those not fond of overtly costume dramas. The acting was surprisingly good, (the Marquise and Vicomte especially). The piano score for scene changes was nice too. Do see it if you’re free and about Oxford this week.

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Night Owls and Music Halls

Oh I do seem to work best when the world is silent ‘cept for skitters and the odd animal yowl. It’s at that time that my brain lets loose the energy it needed distractions to help build up, like going into gear from an enforced neutral.

Today I am going to make a quiet film: using the story as narrative over waves and footage I shot in Leigh. I was thinking about Derek Jarman’s Blue the other day and want to see if that would work for something less contemplative and with dialogue.

If all else fails, it might just turn into a narration from Bagpuss.

On Saturday I was at Wilton’s Music Hall for the Hammer and Tongue Poetry Slam Final (will link to review once it’s up). The building is beautiful, all the more so for its unassuming fa├žade hidden away in a back alley off Whitechapel. It’s the oldest music hall in the world, apparently, and the last functioning one. I’d like to see other events there and bask in the life the place has yet.

Fabulous columns

Wilton's Music Hall, taken from the side of the main hall, facing away from the stage.

Looking to the Sea

I forget, sometimes, that I should look to the sea itself.

This weekend I went to Leigh-on-Sea with a group of friends. We participated in an Abbey Night, turning off all our electrics (barring the fridge) and stocking up on candles. It was a great night, although I’d argue that with great company it was easier to break the bond with technology than were I alone. I may attempt to institute one of those for myself; if nothing else it’ll help me get more reading done.

But I digress.

What I wanted to talk about was the view. I borrowed someone’s phone to take photos, near blind by the sun so that I only had the vaguest notion of where I was aiming, and how they turned out. Predictably, the framing could be better.

At around four in the morning, we decided to visit the sea-front. Walking down to the shore past the empty boat-yard, laughing all the while at horror-film tropes. But when there, faced with the cold lapping of the water, we grew silent, staring out into the distance.

We were surrounded by sparse sounds of faded boats, their ropes swaying, knocking, against their masts and hulls. Vestiges of sea ghosts lingered on the sand, lending their translucence to the speckled debris.

It was quite a thing.

Leigh-on-sea: vast expanse of sky with boats on the water

Photograph taken in Leigh-on-Sea of boats under a vast expanse of sky