Physical Dramaturgy: Ein (neuer) Trend?

Dramaturgie im zeitgenössischen Tanz ist ? positiv gemeint ? ein heißes Eisen. Idealerweise sind Dramaturginnen und Dramaturgen während der Erarbeitung eines Stücks die besten Freunde der Choreografen. more more



In the spirit of Goya

Ralph Eue interviews director Milos Forman on his latest film "Goya's Ghosts"

Following "Amadeus" and "The People vs. Larry Flint," Milos Forman says he is fulfilling a long-standing dream with "Goya's Ghosts." While the exalted, eternally giggling and farting Mozart was the focus of "Amadeus", neither the person of Francisco de Goya nor his creations are at the centre of this essayistic, historically vague epic. The film can be seen at best as a rambling, voluptuous search for the subjects and settings behind the painter's ghostlike, grotesque impressions. Through the eyes of a largely passive Goya (Stellan Skarsgård), we are witnesses of a fictitious story (screenplay: Jean-Claude Carrière). The political, religious and social insanity of an era plays itself out in the horrid fate of Goya's graceful muse Ines (Natalie Portman). For an inanity she has committed, she lands in the hands of the furious Father Lorenzo (Javier Bardem) and trapped in the workings of the Spanish Inquisition, from which she is only liberated by Napoleon's invasion after 15 tortured years. Deformed, full of lice and on the verge of mental insanity, she – having become a classic Goyaesque figure – stumbles through the next regime of terror in search of the child she had given birth to in the church prison.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Although the name Goya appears in the title of your film, he's hardly the central figure.

Milos Forman
: I can't stand bio pics. They're nothing more than celebrity magazines on celluloid. Goya is one of three central characters in my film. I tell a fictitious tale in which the painter plays a catalyst in the relationship between a fanatic young inquisitor and a merchant's daughter. The delivery of dramatic content rests on their shoulders.

Milos Forman. All photos © Tobis Film

How important is the accuracy of historical facts for you?

We take the moments of great stories as the currents that propel characters. Because these characters are independent people, robust, labile or sensitive to different degrees, events have varying effects on them. Historic facts are not the Bible for me, but simply material. Everything that happens in "Goya's Ghosts" has actually happened, but not necessarily to these people and in this order.

Did you want to tell a story of the Inquisition?

It's the background of the story, not the story itself.

And the torture methods that you portray?

The Inquisition in Spain lasted 200 years and a lot changed in this time. Take the martial interrogation technique, in which the hands of the guilty party were tied behind his back so that they could be hoisted. That was very common in the 16th century, but wasn't being used much by the end of 18th. I don't think I'm guilty of falsification if I show this kind of a torture scene in Goya's times. Peter Shaffer, the author with whom I wrote "Amadeus" once said to me: you don't have to swear an oath to the historic facts but rather to the spirit of them.

Natalie Portman as Ines

Seeing that you mention "Amadeus": Mozart and Goya lived and worked at roughly the same time. What draws you to this era, the 18th century?

The films have little to do with each other, largely because the characters of Goya and Mozart were presumably fundamentally very different. There is an abundant historical tradition on Mozart, which can be used to spawn further fantasies and on which we based our Amadeus. Goya was a closed person, he didn't keep a diary, he had few friends and wrote no letters. He seems to have reified himself in his pictures. On top of that, there was no united 18th century in Europe. Spain at the end of the 18th century is more comparable to Austria at the beginning of the 17th century. It was probably the French Revolution that brought about a more paralleled European history.

French revolutionaries arrive in Spain

You don't seem too confident about the historic ruptures that took place in Goya's time; the Enlightenment and the French Revolution seem to be less the launch of a bright future for mankind and more the promise of another kind of historic darkness.

When Napoleon came to Spain, he did away with the Inquisition and introduced the ideals of the French Revolution. All correct. But he had no idea that a fifth of all Spaniards were living off welfare which was organised by priests at the time. When the Napoleonic troops gathered up the church representatives, the people were appalled that they were taking away precisely those people who protected their modest existence. Do you think that Napoleon wasted a single thought on this welfare system? The liberators were often greeted by people with crossed arms who called: viva las cadenas. Long live the chains. The "divine power" was terrible for many people but it was more calculable than the new secular power.

Many of your earlier films have been about hard-headed characters, as unwieldy as they are charming. People who can't or don't want to conform. Your character Father Lorenzo, on the other hand, is a crafty opportunist.

I see Lorenzo as a power idealist who believes that he can make the power system useful. It goes without saying that he fails – anyone who believes this turns into a sorcerer's apprentice. But characters like Lorenzo make things happen. There's a nice term for this in German: "Wendehals". Such opportunists are the greatest accelerators of change in the history of mankind. They bundle energy and I find this bundling incredibly interesting.


This interview originally appeared in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on November 20, 2006.

Translation: nb

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles. - let's talk european.

More articles

Life in a bubble

Wednesday 21 March, 2012

TeaserPicAwarded a Silver Bear at this year's Berlinale, Christian Petzold's new film "Barbara" is a GDR drama set in the early 1980s. Colourful and romantic beyond any nostalgia for the East, it relates the situation of female doctor caught in the circumstances of having applied for an exit visa. For Petzold, the film is not only a highly personal story of a woman in conflict but a film about what was lost - especially for women - with the fall of the Wall in 1989.
read more

Workers of the world, be entertained!

Monday 13 February, 2012

TeaserPicThis year's Berlinale Retrospective "The Red Dream Factory" rediscovers the legendary German-Russian Mezhrabpom-Film (1922-1936). It tells of incredible film successes, ideological misunderstandings and astonishing blindness. By Oksana Bulgakova
read more

Thailand has woken up

Thursday 27 May, 2010

Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, the Thai film maker who has just won the Palme d'Or in Cannes, talks to Cristina Nord about the political situation in his country and his films.
read more

Talking to the lord of pain

Tuesday 16 February, 2010

The director Werner Herzog is the president of the jury at this, the 60th Berlinale. Katja Nicodemus met him in Los Angeles to discuss burning Lilliputians, how it feels like to be unsuccessfully shot at, and the life of a lone Bavarian wolf in Hollywood.
read more

Playing Lars

Wednesday 16 September, 2009

Charlotte Gainsbourg spent two months in Germany, either blood-spattered in a dark forest or sealed off in a sterile hotel. She talks to Martina Meister about discovering her limits during the filming of "Antichrist" by Danish director Lars von Trier.
read more

Israel's enemies take no prisoners

Tuesday 7 July, 2009

TeaserPicThe Israeli Defence Forces should be judged by different standards than those used for other armies, says Claude Lanzmann. Fifteen years after the release of "Tsahal", his controversial film about the first Jewish army, the French director talks to Max Dax about the logic of war, the value of Jewish lives and Sharon as shepherd.
read more

Marx: the quest, the way, the destination

Tuesday 20 January, 2009

TeaserPicTaking off where Sergei Eisenstein left off, Alexander Kluge has made a nine-and-a-half hour film about Karl Marx and the fairytale of "Kapital". And it's not a minute too long. By Helmut Merker
read more

Cloud 9 at 70 plus

Thursday 11 September, 2008

Emotional chaos in the elderly and the best aesthetic for folds and wrinkles. Birgit Glombitza talks to Andreas Dresen about geriatric love and sex, and his new film "Wolke 9".

read more

And isn't it baronic

Wednesday 16 April, 2008

Billed as the inspirational story of one of the greatest legends of all times, "The Red Baron" is flying, driving and healing Germany at dizzy cinematic heights. There are just not enough superlatives to do this film justice. By Ekkehard Knörer.
read more

The mild bunch

Monday 18 February, 2008

Only one truly original auteur filmmaker made it into this year's Berlinale Competition. With "Night and Day" Korean director Hong Sangsoo proved himself to be one of the great free-thinking talents of contemporary cinema. This aside, emaciated wishy-washy realism prevailed. By Ekkehard Knörer
read more

Berlinale box

Thursday 14 February, 2008

With the Berlin film festival well underway we pick out some of the highlights. Jose Padilha's "Tropa de Elite" might have all the components of an Egoshooter film but it's far off. Hongkong star Johnnie To's "Sparrow" is a bringer of unadulterated joy. Isabel Coixet's "Elegy" stars a couple of aging Roth rabbits. And P.T. Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" should be enjoyed on an empty stomach.
read more

Bordering on miraculous

Friday 8 February, 2008

A frighteningly intense Daniel Day Lewis, musical accompaniment from Martin Scorsese, Madonna and Patti Smith, home-made filmic fumblings from a music video genius, a mere smidgen of German material and plenty of Far Eastern promise. After the Berlinale Film Festival hit rock bottom last year, it seems a sharp upwards turn is on the cards for 2008.
read more

All eyes on the December children

Wednesday 5 December, 2007

Romania might have only 35 cinemas but it is having a profound effect on the world of film. Christian Mungiu's "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days" won the Palme d'Or at Cannes earlier this year and the European Film Prize in Berlin on Saturday. By Jan Schulz-Ojala
read more

Floundering Dutch man

Monday 15 October, 2007

A theme running through this year's Netherlands Film Festival is that of men running after deliverance, preferably in the form of young women. There's plenty of tongue in cheek but no changing the facts: the new man, like the old, needs a muse. By Jann Ruyters
read more

Love and two coffins

Monday 8 October, 2007

German-Turkish director Fatih Akin's "The Edge of Heaven" won the best screen play award at Cannes. Now showing in German cinemas, it is a light, bright film about death, an optimistic requiem full of little utopias. By Katja Nicodemus

read more