BROOKLYN:  Randy Gener joins the internationally acclaimed Flemish director Ivo van Hove — whose work Cate Blanchett describes as “stunning, with a capital ‘S’ ” — in a BAMtalk entitled “Movies and Theater.”  The conversation takes places Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm at BAM Rose Cinemas.

Gener’s hour-long BAMtalk with Ivo van Hove is a featured event of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s U.S. premiere of Cries and Whispers by Ingmar Bergman.

Part of the 2011 BAM Next Wave FestivalCries and Whispers performs October 25—29, 2011 at 7:30pm at BAM Harvey Theater.

Portrait of Ivo van Hove, internationally acclaimed Flemish director

Performed in Dutch with English titles, Ivo van Hove’s Cries and Whispers is a stage adaptation of the classic 1972 film by the late Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. “To be able to work with Bergman’s complex evocation of human suffering and compassion is both a challenge and an honor,” van Hove says.

Performed by the members of Toneelgroep Amsterdam, where Van Hove is the artistic director, this production was made possible with the cooperation of Auteursrechtenbureau ALMO, in association with Josef Weinberger Ltd, London and the Ingmar Bergman Foundation. Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s Cries and Whispers was first performed at the Ingmar Bergman International Theatre Festival 2009.

Nathan Award–winning editor and writer Randy Gener visited Sweden’s Royal Dramatic Theater in Stockholm to attend the Ingmar Bergman International Theatre Festival. He was the first American critic to see and write about van Hove’s production.

An excerpt from Gener’s critical essay on the work and career of Ivo van Hove, “A Passion for Extremes” — it was the cover story of the November 2009 edition of American Theatre magazine:

In his book Images: My Life in Film, Ingmar Bergman wrote: “All my films can be thought of in terms of black and white, except for Cries and Whispers. In the screenplay, I say that I have thought of the color red as the interior of the soul.” Thanks to a close collaboration with the great cinematographer Sven Nykvist, Bergman saturated his emotionally charged 1972 film about the rapier masochism of sisterhood and family life with a striking color palette made almost exclusively of crimson, black and white (which the Swedish filmmaker associated with the themes of blood, religion and sexual repression).

Randy Gener's cover story on Ivo van Hove's stage version of Ingmar Bergman's film "Cries and Whispers" | Photo by Chris Nietvelt and Jan Versweyveld

A bleak yet hypnotic portrayal of pain and suffering, Cries and Whispers takes place inside a tomb-like manor house at the turn of the century. Structured as a gliding series of memories, flashbacks, devastating confrontations and fleshy close-ups that fade out into deep reds, Bergman’s story compels us to observe the frustrated lives and emotional horrors of four women. Agnes, a virginal spinster, is dying of cancer of the womb. Her two unhappily married sisters have come to attend her in her final agony. Callously, they watch and wait, along with Anna, a reliable maid, during the last two days of Agnes’s life.

In van Hove, Bergman finds a perfect appositive. Turning away from the strong valences invoked by red, van Hove’s Agnes slathers thick impastos of Yves Klein blue (or IKB, as it is known in art circles) on the glass partitions and white canvases that effortlessly slide in and out of Versweyvald’s layered, open-space set—a sleek coalescence of video workshop, kitchen, living room and austere bedroom.

Based on a few lines of description in Bergman’s script (“She has vague artistic ambitions—dabbling in painting…” and “Agnes’s painting is generously colorful and somewhat romantic. Her main subject is flowers”), van Hove re-conceives Agnes as a performance artist whose obsession with her video diaries substitutes for the human affection and sense of community she so desperately hungers for.

And van Hove’s version of Cries and Whispers is more heart-wrenching when it departs from Ingmar Bergman.”Van Hove’s Cries and Whispers fuses uninhibited acting, chic-sterile stage design, contemporary attired, loud pop/hard-rock music and live-video footage to create an installation-style atmosphere. Except for replicating a sculptural pose of a dying Agnes that suggests a Pieta, van Hove’s misc-en-scene does not imitate Bergman’s softer film style. Van Hove’s urgent production theatricalizes the jumbled phases of a mourning process. It moves and feels like a 19th-century allegory in a 21st-century hybrid-art form.

Here is a promotional video of Cries and Whispers on the BAM website.

The Nathan Award–winning Randy Gener replaces MacArthur genius and Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, whose name was originally advertised in the BAM Next Wave Festival brochure. —RG

Ivo van Hove's stage version of Ingmar Bergman's film "Cries and Whispers" | Photo by Chris Nietvelt and Jan Versweyveld

Ivo van Hove with Randy Gener

Part of the 2011 BAM Next Wave Festival
Wed., Oct. 26, 2011 at 6pm

BAM Rose Cinemas
1 hr.
$10; $5 for Friends of BAM


Part of the 2011 BAM Next Wave Festival

Oct. 25–29, 2011 at 7:30pm

U.S. Premiere
By Ingmar Bergman
Toneelgroep Amsterdam
Directed by Ivon van Hove

In Dutch with English titles
Scenography by Jan Versweyveld
Dramaturgy by Peter van Kraaij
Video design by Tal Yarden
Costume design by Wojciech Dziedzic
Sound design by Roeland Fernhout

In a sterile grey room, an artist lies dying. Her video diaries flicker on screens, offering consoling images of an ersatz immortality as her estranged sisters hover about, removed. Not a word has been uttered and already director Ivo van Hove (Opening Night, 2008 Next Wave) has transported us to a collective soul bound by the most tenuous compassion. On a stage transfigured by grief, gripping performances from Dutch repertory company Toneelgroep Amsterdam drive this modern adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s unflinching 1972 film about the will to live and the astounding human capacity for empathy amid the debris of damaged life.

BAM Harvey Theater

Run time: 1hr 45min
Season tickets start at $17.50
Full price tickets start at $25

Toneelgroep Amsterdam / deSingel Antwerpen / Ingmar Bergman International Theatre Festival 2009

Ivo van Hove's stage version of Ingmar Bergman's film "Cries and Whispers" | Photo by Chris Nietvelt and Jan Versweyveld