On June 28 Ivo van Hove‘s film will be screened in Philadelphia followed by a conversation and discussion.
A nude Blanche du Bois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. A barefoot production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge. An operatic version of Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain. Shakespeare’s Roman plays—Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra—transformed into an epic multi-media spectacle.
These are the signature works by Ivo van Hove: not a household name in America, but the Belgian-Dutch director is a powerful force in the European avant-garde, creating films, theater, and mixed media productions that have earned him dazzling reviews and a slew of prizes. He is the Artistic Director of Toneelgroep Amsterdam, the largest theater company in the Netherlands.
Philadelphians can dip into this radical artistic world on June 28, when the Fringe presents Live Remix, a day-long program focused on van Hove, and in a major Fringe Arts coup, the man himself will be there to premiere his first film, Amsterdam, and then discuss his work.
The film site Letterboxd describes van Hove’s 2009 Amsterdam as an ensemble film about “a rich American couple, a family of Dutch criminals, a French gay couple, a working class family from Germany, and an illegal Moroccan youth and his kid brother, all in Amsterdam, each with their own story….their paths intertwine, leading to a dramatic climax that changes their lives forever.” An unexpectedly familiar face starring in the film is Marisa Tomei.
The movie will be screened from 11a.m to 12:30 p.m. followed by an hour of conversation with van Hove. He speaks English fluently (and, apparently, very very fast).
A roundtable discussion will follow at 2:30, including some of the heavy hitters from the American theatrical avant-garde: John Collins (Elevator Repair Service), Doris Mirescu (Dangerous Ground Productions), and Ryan McNamara (Independent Visual Artist).
van Hove’s long relationship with Ingmar Bergman’s work includes a stage adaptation of Cries and Whispers and After the Rehearsal/Persona, two short stage pieces described as a diptych linked by their investigation of theater, and of the blurring of boundaries between art and reality. These will be onstage in Philadelphia during the Fringe Festival (September 3,4,5, at the 23rd Street Armory). One of van Hove’s most controversial productions that won attention—not all of it admiring– was his adaptation for the stage of the great Swedish director’s film, Scenes from a Marriage.
If this isn’t enough of an immersion into van Hove and his ultra-contemporary theater scene, he’s coming to Broadway. His acclaimed British production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge starring Mark Strong will open in October. This show lured Strong back to the London stage after an absence of twelve years; American audiences likely know Strong as a Hollywood villain, in movies like Kick-Ass and Zero Dark Thirty, and he will soon be seen next year in Sacha Baron Cohen’s new comedy, Grimsby.
Strong was startled initially by van Hove’s approach to the Miller play in which he stripped away all the realistic paraphernalia—shoes as well as sets. Eventually the actor was convinced: “once you take all that stuff away, as long as you understand the characters’ motivations and what they are saying to each other, everything else is just trying to pretend that it’s real.” The contemporary relevance of this mid-twentieth century play is obvious; its plot pivots on the issue of immigration. It’s also a highly charged story of sexual attraction, transgressive and alarming. The British critics found the production thrilling and scalding, a “pure, primal, colossal thing,”and “one of the great theatrical productions of the decade.”
Because van Hove’s goal is to create what he calls the “ultimate production,” he has been viewed as a provocateur, a label he only seems to decline as part of a past when the New York scene saw him as “a bad boy, Eurotrash.” But, as he added in an interview last April in London, “When I do a play, I want to do it in the most extreme way possible.”
Fringe Arts, 140 N. Columbus Blvd (at Race St). Sunday, June 28th. Free. RSVP at FringeArts.com or call 215-413-1318.