Monday, July 6, 2009

It Felt Like a Kiss

It Felt Like a Kiss
5 July, 2009
Manchester International Festival
Directed by Felix Barrett
Film by Adam Curtis
Created by Punchdrunk, Felix Barrett, and Adam Curtis

How do I go about even describing this production. The centerpiece of this experience is a documentary by Adam Curtis. The documentary combines pop music, footage from the late 50s and early 60s, and films from that period as well. The documentary is attempt to show how the American Dream began unraveling during this time period. 

This film is the keystone for the rest of the production. The show itself is a promenade performance, and it sprawled over five floors in an office building in Manchester. Groups of 10 were filtered in to experience a haunting view of the unraveling of the American Dream. Spectators are given free reign to investigate an American family's home and the secrets that hide under its perfect surface. There are only mannequins present which gave me a static and somber feeling. In a way voyeuristic, but it also gave the feeling of being watched. Themes of surveillance and conspiracy begin to bleed through. This family is under investigation by the CIA. The American home blends into offices which then blend into movie sets. There are many cameras around. 

The film is shown in a high school prom. Scenes from the film directly relate to some of the scenes that have just been experienced. There is a great mixture of film, theatre, and real life. Some of the documentary scenes have been recreated in the rooms that the spectator has just walked.

The final part of the show involves psychological testing and experiments. It also has to do with how much freedom and person has, and how much independence they feel they have in their life. This section takes on the genre of a horror film, and the spectator completely moves from spectator to performer. 

One other aspect of this show that I found really interesting is that little relationships were developed with the people in my group. Although I ended up experiencing the last section with a slightly different group of people, there was still some dependence on each other. Some people moved forward with courage, some wanted to remain behind with fear. A section of the show involves following a series of messages. A girl who was with us did not want us to follow the messages. After following one herself, and being scared by the result she became very nervous. She pleaded with me not to follow one of the last messages. After our descent into the horror film genre where we moved from spectators to performers, she exited the show. The rest of the group was stripped away in one of the more brilliant aspects of the show. In a disorientating warehouse of sounds, lights, and metal cages my group went from 8 to 4 to 2. I attempted to follow my friend but my way was obstructed. I no longer had any choice, I was no longer independent. I had to follow path that I could not choose to its inevitable end.

Rustin Allison

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