Marat / Sade
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Directed by Peter Brook and based on the TonyÂ(r) Award-winning play by Peter Weiss, this spellbinding tale of 'slashing power and disturbance (The Film Daily) bristles with the riveting energy and excellent (Variety) performances by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company, including Ian Richardson and Patrick Magee. Brimming with raving lunatics, crackling whips, catatonicseizuresand even musical interludesMarat/Sade is an exciting, overwhelming [and] stunning tour de force (Boxoffice)! When notorious social criticand inmate of Charenton's asylum for the insanethe Marquis de Sade (Magee), stages a play about the murder of the French Revolution's Jean-Paul Marat, the production takes on an alarming life of its own. And as tempers flare,arguments rage and chaos engulfs both the sane and the mad, the inmates finally turn against their keepersin a brilliant, breathtaking and completely bizarre conclusion'that will leave you raving for more!
In 1964, German playwright Peter Weiss wowed the international theater scene with his Berlin production of The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. An instant sensation, the play caught the attention of iconic theater director Peter Brook, whose own stage production captivated audiences in New York the next year. Brook then filmed his production in 1966, and the resulting movie, Marat/Sade, stands as one of the best-loved screen adaptations of a play, by both critics and theater fans alike. (The 1996 film Quills is a good example of the story's lasting resonance.) As can be surmised by the play's original title, the action focuses on the Marquis de Sade (Patrick Magee) circa 1808, who, while imprisoned at Charenton Asylum, writes and directs a play starring his fellow inmates. Dramatizing the final hours of French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat (Ian Richardson) before he was killed by Charlotte Corday (Glenda Jackson, in one of the defining moments of her career), de Sade offers the play as an entertaining whim for the tiny audience of asylum director Coulmier (Clifford Rose) and his family. Utilizing the "theatre of cruelty" theory of avant-garde pioneer Antonin Artaud--once an asylum inmate himself--Brook's presentation of Marat/Sade confronts with jagged language, sounds and visuals, in an attempt to shock the movie audience into dissatisfaction and action against the status quo, mirroring the way de Sade's play within the film stirs the asylum inmates to high dudgeon and revolution. --Heather Campbell
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Top customer reviews
A year or so ago I had the great fortune of seeing a production of this play at the University of Texas, which again was wonderfully realized. I cannot understand why this DVD is no longer available from the manufacturer: I suppose that on the surface it seems of limited appeal - but the theme of the philosohical debate between de Sade and Marat is as important and relevant today as it was forty years ago, and it is presented so brilliantly through the writing, the staging and the acting in this one of a kind DVD.
It is not perfect though, WHY in mono when the 1965 vinyl recording is in stereo? This version would have been quite lovely IF we were slowly engulfed by the inmates [SURROUND SOUND], this is how the stage version works - we, the audience, watching the invited period audience, watching this "work", staged as "therapy" for fellow-inmates by deSade. An enormous acting challenge, but with this cast??? Please, this is manna! Glenda Jackson, the great Glenda Jackson startles with her presence, the somnambulist patient, playing Charlotte Corday, and do watch out for those beautiful unspoken moments with Magee [deSade], what communication!
Magee as deSade ? Perfect, remember this man, equally brilliant in "Clockwork Orange", reduced to banal horror moves later. Ian Richardson, Marat [Gormenghast] also unforgettable.
A period piece? Not really, playwright Peter Weiss writes more : "a drinking/thinking time". Explore the dialogue between deSade and Marat, it's quite contemporary, not forgetting the censor's occasional bon-mots! "These things couldn't possibly happen today, we live in civilized times", extremely funny, a "falling off one's couch" moment!
The RSC went on to do "US" next [visions of Viet-Nam transplanted to merry old England] but the burning of butterflies [for real, there was the usual protest] at the work's conclusion proved to be a too extreme form of cruelty and awareness.
"Quills" - worth seeing too - but a different reflection of deSade's brilliance, he knows how to observe, and DONT't miss the obscure and rarely obtainable "MARQUIS".
The time setting is post-revolutionary France; the Age of Enlightenment, and of liberation. Or is it? This ragtag troupe of performers, consisting of paranoiacs, melancholiacs, perverts, schizos and all around "social lepers" seem to be the casualties of the Renaissance, creating the perfect metaphor of this filmed play-within-a-play. The radical ideals of the revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat are pitted against the more cynical logic of author de Sade, amidst a sea of churning madness, resulting in an unsettling, confrontational and subversive work which poses uncomfortable questions about the good intentions that bring about social change.
By turns icily philosophical and gut-level emotional, this was probably the first play/film to portray the Marquis de Sade as more of a political figure than the mere depraved smut peddler history had painted him. Patrick Magee delivers an unforgettable portrait of the Marquis; Glenda Jackson's twitching, lurching Charlotte Corday is an equally memorable film debut; Ian Richardson's Marat is intense, haunting and tormented; and the Royal Shakespeare Company's supporting cast of "inmates" is disturbingly convincing.
Perhaps more potentially controversial at the time of its release in 1966, the era of Vietnam disillusionment, Marat/Sade still does a great job of exposing the wrinkles in our supposedly more evolved age, and as such remains a strong and timely work. Please note: there are TWO DVD versions available ..... this one is the widescreen transfer, it looks and sounds immaculate, and if you are as much a fan of this film as I am, you are in for an ecstatic viewing experience. So do not be alarmed by the claims of other reviewers bemoaning a grainy pan-and-scan transfer. Also. contrary to what another viewer wrote, this movie was NOT filmed on the New York stage, though that's what it was intended to look like. The multiple perspectives created by director Brook mirror the socio-philosophical multiple perspecives portrayed by playwright Weiss, which work well together to give this title its provocative punch. A primal scream that will echo in the thinking person's mind for some time, Marat/Sade boasts flawless performances, hallucinogenic cinematography and yes, even a smattering of catchy tunes ..... a richly satisfying film on several levels, for the more cerebrally adventurous.