“The Odyssey, A Hollywood Story”: Warlikowski’s Legendary Epic

In an impressive scenography, the brilliant actors of the Nowy Theater in Warsaw embody the legendary characters of Homer Odyssey and Shoah, including a heroic survivor who dreams of seeing her story come to life with Elizabeth Taylor. A whirlpool of images and stories by Krzysztof Varlikowski attempts to penetrate the walls of collective amnesia through this mysterious journey.


What remains of the story of the Greeks, about the story of Odysseus fighting the barbarians and then returning after a hundred years, his hands stained with blood from his crimes, and his eyes dry from heavy crying, without words of consolation? In front of his children and Penelope his wife who is still silent with pain? Greek Ulysses, performed by the ancient and very beautiful actor Stanislav Brodni, is eerily similar to Shayk (Marius Bonazewski), the amazing husband of Isolda Regensburg, imprisoned and deported by the Nazis and whose wife pursued and sought after him. She is rescued, and takes risks until she commits to get him out of the ghetto. Isolda, beautifully played in the show by Ewa Dalkowska, is a Polish woman who witnesses the murder and deportation of several Jews and will pretend to be a German nurse when she is detained at Auschwitz, after being tortured by the Gestapo. A character of an extraordinary woman, transcending the show with this heroic victim status, descended as a young woman by Maja Ostaszewska whom we see crawling behind the bars of a moving cage, at the foot of her SS executioner.

virtual nightmare

Indeed, to see the panels follow each other subtly for camera shots looking into the bowels of the characters, walls slide down the immense hilltop, from Isolda’s torture chamber to Ulysses’ reunion meal, from the office of writer Hannah Krall, a living writer and veritable repository of Isolda’s testimony, before The latter meets Elizabeth Taylor to ask her to play her role in a Hollywood movie. So Isolda’s story is true, it is Hannah Krall who told it in “The King of Hearts” and “Return of Memory”, which narrates the text of Warlikowski and Pyotr Groszinski. And in a movie theater, with Roman Polanski (Paul Tomaszowski), the famous purple-eyed actress Elizabeth Taylor, masterfully played by the beautiful Magdalena Chilika, discusses the project with the unbearable tired and narcissistic Robert Evans (Marek Kalita). The shock of this terrible guerrilla story can only be absorbed by Hollywood with sex and blood, in the race for the bucks that poor set management and special effects require. And this is shown, in an illustrated excerpt, mocked with humor and wit: the inability to tell these untold stories through imagination.

Claude Lanzmann and Hannah Arendt

The two shocking moments are those moments in which the imagination of the theater explodes the terrible reality of historical truth. First of all, with the astonishing and nostalgic meeting of German Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt (Malgorzata Hajewska-Krzysztofik) to France and then to the United States in 1933, with Martin Heidegger, her ex-lover (Andrzej Chyra) in the Nazi Party, in the middle of the Black Forest, while that the latter, expelled from the university after the war, turns to philosophizing with the trees, while a Buddhist monk on the go asks him about his dubious concessions. We move on to the excerpt of the movie holocaust By Claude Lanzmann, a documentary in which the stubborn director interrogates a witness to the camps, a hairdresser who cuts the hair of deportees, in a hair salon remodeled for the occasion in Israel. Wojciech Kalaros plays the director as he gives a lecture on the impossibility of making feature films about the Holocaust. In one great final scene, an airy Debok invites himself into a rabbi’s house to magically emerge from. The show ends based on a mysterious and insidious, romantic and hereditary revenge secret. The gods are dead and it is up to man to remember, act and overcome his sense of guilt.

Helen Kotner

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