Film Interview

Director Rene Migliaccio

NosferatuIt was in Montreal with Louise Boisvert that French-Italian born Rene Migliaccio started research on an acting style described as "expressionistic realism." Together they founded the Drama Theatre Cie, and their first production was "Antigone" by Sophocles, co-directed by Rene Migliaccio and Louise Boisvert in 1983. By the following year, Rene also headed an acting school called the Drama Studio where he directed "The Maids" by Genet, "The Jewish Wife" by Brecht, and "Lorenzaccio" by Alfred de Musset. In 1985 Rene Migliaccio directed a loose adaptation of Mamet's "Sexual Perversity in Chicago" that was called "French Kiss." This production was then invited to premiere in Paris where it opened in 1986 at L'Espace Kiron. The following year in Paris, at the Marie Stuart Theatre, he directed "Mess," which was an adaptation of Maxim Gorki's "The Lower Depths."

Rene Migliaccio was then invited to direct a production in Los Angeles that was part of the city's "Fringe Festival" of 1987. He received the Best Directing Award from Drama Logue for his direction of "Armaggedon Outta Here." In 1988, he directed "Deathwatch" by Jean Genet at The Powerhouse in Santa Monica. This production was nominated for Best Ensemble Performance and received the Best Lighting Award from the critics of LA Weekly. "Awake and Sing" by Clifford Odets followed in 1989-90 and was honored by being named in the LA Times as Best Theatre of 1989.

In October 1994, Migliaccio was invited to mount a production by the Troupe Lunes de Mai, Paris, France. The production he chose was "Fear and Misery of the Third Reich" which took place at Jussieu in the Latin Quarter during Spring 1995. The following year at Jussieu, Rene directed an adaptation of the classic silent film "Nosferatu." In the fall of 1996, he brought the production of "Fear and Misery of the Third Reich" to Los Angeles in a co-production with the Los Angeles Playhouse. The play marked his debut with the Open Fist Theatre Company, and the production was composed of French and American actors. In 1997, Rene Migliaccio directed "The Servant of Two Masters" by Carlo Goldoni at the Los Angeles Playhouse.

In the Spring of 1998, Rene Migliaccio was Visiting Assistant Professor and Guest Director at the School of Theater, Film and Television of UCLA. He directed the play "The Cenci" by Antonin Artaud and, after a series of performances in Los Angeles, the production traveled to Paris. Rene was at the helm of an International University Festival between the University of California, Los Angeles and the Universities of Paris VI - Pierre et Marie Curie and Paris VII - Denis Diderot that took place on the Campus of Jussieu, in the Latin Quarter of Paris.

NosferatuIn the Summer of 1999, Rene directed "Medea" by Euripides with the Telluride Rep Theatre. Their next production will be "Nosferatu," a stage adaptation from Murnau's Nosferatu and Bram Stoker's Dracula. "Nosferatu" will be performed in New York in the Spring of 2000 and will travel to Telluride for the Summer of that year.

How do you define this production of "Nosferatu"?

"Nosferatu" is a drama that defines theatre as an attainment of poetic conscience. There is an absolute research of a physical expression of the stage that goes beyond the limitations of naturalistic theatre. With "Nosferatu," we are witnessing individuals, engulfed in a profound spiritual conflict, between Divine forces and Diaboliques forces. We, as human beings, are torn apart by these two forces which are at the core of each individual and therefore each society.

It seems that you are to bringing this kind a very physical work made of sensuous images.

The physical movement is the manifestation of a poetic state. As far as sensuality is concerned, it is the sensuality of nature itself, the sensuality of our own poetic world.

Hearing the music, we feel disturbed and uneasy…

Music in this production is the primary conscience of the world in which the characters evolve. The different musical movements of the performance carry us from romantic feelings to feelings of danger and death. The harmony found in classical music is thrown against the dissonance of the techno- music made of multiform sounds.

You have replaced the character of Jonathan, the husband of Mina, by the character of a sister, Ellen. Why?

I wanted, by substituting the husband by a sister, to concentrate the drama on the poetic and philosophical forces of masculinity and feminity. Feminine principle versus Masculine principle: in this case the two sisters and Nosferatu. Moreover, by having the two women as protagonists of the story, the feminine energy holds the philosophical theme of the drama, namely: a renewal of our own spiritual world. We are taking the audience on that path through a very physical and emotional experience.

It seems to me that all the characters represent the different attitudes that one might adopt if confronted with a phenomenon such as Nosferatu…

Mina, in fact, is the only character to progressively becoming conscious of the real menace posed by Nosferatu. Caught in this lucidity, she accepts the sacrifice. The chorus represents the social forces, the poetic forces, the physical forces, and I think, in particular of the trance they execute at one point during the performance. This trance is the symbol of Nosferatu's entrails, blood boiling inside him before the act of murder.

What about the costumes?

The costumes, describe symbolically, the conflict that these characters live between Darkness and Light.

How do you work with actors?

NosferatuWe work through very specific techniques of gestures, masks and concentration. We work intensely on the expressions of the facial mask to render with precision any feeling that the character is experiencing. The work is very physical. Any psychological analysis is banished. We work a lot on emotions, and it is very important, at the beginning, to respond to the work very freely, searching deep inside of them the line of danger. In every performance, the notion of danger must exist, not the danger associated with fear, but the one that gives the sensation that you are pushing the limits of your own inner world. This reaching beyond limits by the actor is at the core of every artistic research, because that is what will be left ultimately with the audience. The components of performance, text, symbols, images, colors, music, will be experienced by the audience on an individual level, but it is the actor's performance pushing the limits of reality that creates the collective experience, and gives the performance its real significance.

What about expressionism?

Expressionism is the research of the total personal expression of the world. There is in romanticism as well as expressionism a profound ardor.

It seems to me that expressionism depicts highly charged emotions…

Expressionism is above all the expression of the gesture caught in a particular shadow of light. Like Murnau once said: "It is not the light that we have to create, but shadows." The images in this production are oscillating between shadow and light. It is in that shadow that emotions rise to a level of fantastic dimension.