Theater of War
Photos and Video
As evidenced with his film How to Draw a Bunny, director John Walter is no stranger to examining the work of artists. With Theater of War, he moves from the pop artistry of Ray Johnson to the epic theater of Bertolt Brecht. Unending war and those who profit from it are among the chief concerns of Brecht's timeless Mother Courage and Her Children, so it is perhaps unsurprising that Manhattan's Public Theater chose to stage an outdoor production of this famously bleak epic play during the summer of 2006. Boasting a new translation by American playwright Tony Kushner, the project attracted the likes of Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and famed theater director George C. Wolfe, all of whom are featured in this exclusive look at the staging of this provocative work. For all his unfettered backstage access, Walter is not merely invested in capturing the preparations for the show. Themes of Marxism, consumerism, and war mix seamlessly with Brecht's tumultuous life and career throughout the film, and particularly poignant moments involve Brecht's daughter, his friend and collaborator Carl Weber, and in one particularly memorable scene, extended footage of Brecht's testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Segments showcasing Streep's searing performance as Mother Courage provide a never-before-seen glimpse into her in process and culminate in a powerful statement that speaks volumes about the age we live in today. Walter gives us an intimate look at the creative process, but Theater of War is much more than a trip behind the curtain: It's an engaging and comprehensive look at war, capitalism, and their brutal necessity for one another.
Director's Statement Collapse
Years ago, I decided I was going to make a film about Bertolt Brecht, the German poet, playwright, and director, one of the most fascinating and influential writers of the last century. So I decided to pick a single one of his plays and focus on that. Film actors rehearsing it, dive deep into the history and the themes of that one play. Then I waited. In the spring of 2006, I read that Tony Kushner was doing a new translation of Brecht's play Mother Courage and Her Children: a Chronicle of the Thirty Years War and that Meryl Streep would be playing the title role. Two weeks and about 200 phone calls later, I was sitting down with Meryl Streep, and she was giving me permission to film her in rehearsal. That was the start of a journey that took me across America and Europe in search of stories about theater, war, and Bertolt Brecht. Theater of War is a journey into dark places and dark times in search of a ray of hope.
Film Information Collapse
[THEAT] | 2008 | 95 | Documentary Feature
Directed by: John Walter
Foreign Title: (Theater of War)
Language: English, German
Cast & Credits Collapse
Principal Cast Meryl Streep, Tony Kushner, Kevin Kline, George C. Wolfe, Barbara Brecht-Schall
Screenwriter John Walter
Producer Nina Santisi
Line Producer Adriane Giebel
Executive Producer Jack Turner
Editor John Walter
Music Robert Miller
Motion Graphics Tanya Ager Meillier, Alexander Meillier
About the Director(s)Collapse
John Walter directed and edited How to Draw a Bunny, which won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and was a 2003 Independent Spirit Award nominee for best documentary. Born in Detroit, he now lives in New York City's East Village with his wife Adriane Giebel.