john wray

An Evening at Goethe Institut with Milo Rau & John Wray

Apparently Goethe Institut-NYC, has had an interesting series that they didn’t advertise. It is called Articulate and part of its mission is to introduce “new tendencies in contemporary German literature.” Because they don’t adequately advertise their series, this talk was an intimate affair (read: handful of attendees).

The guest of honor was Milo Rau. Author and series host, John Wray, spoke about how Rau has his hand in many different mediums–fiction, journalism, theatre, film, etc. What the talk really focused on were these two interesting film pieces. To label them as historical reenactments would be doing them a disservice. Die Reenactment was used in place of a better term. The conversation was conducted in both English and German with Wray asking his questions in English while Rau answered in German (he claimed his English was no good but it was perfectly fine). At the beginning, Rau discussed what his distinction was between historical reenactments (i.e., Civil War) and die Reenactments. It really came down to the artistic merit and purpose of his productions.

The conversation became quite interesting during the middle when they began to speak about the International Institute of Political Murder (website is in German). We watched a six minute film clip from Rau’s film called, Die letzten Tage der Ceausescus (The Last Days of Ceausescus). Part of Rau’s process was to collect transcripts and video footage surrounding the trial in 1989. He staged it in a theatre with an audience (which included the general who had arrested Ceausescus) and filmed the stage production. It was intermingled with shots of the audience. Rau also processed his footage to appear like the washed out appearance of the original 1989 footage. After the panel, Rau and Wray chatted with the small audience. I asked Rau how long this piece took to put together and he replied that it was a year and a half. Below is the trailer from Die letzten Tage der Ceausescus. The subtitles are in German but the images are both haunting and beautiful that anyone can take something away from it.