Friday 30 July 2010

Repo! The Genetic Opera

Lord, what fools these mortals be. (A Midsummer Night's dream II.III)


Time shall unfold what plaited cunning hides. (King Lear I.I)

"It's almost Shakespearean," I said.
"Comedia de l'arte," Lady Dinwhistle replied.
"Grand guignol."
I was out of theatre references so I turned my attention back to the movie.  I got an A in high school drama but there was no use in trying to one-up a girl with a degree in musical theatre.  To my relief Lady D was fully engrossed in Repo! and wasn't listening to me anymore.

There's a scene in Buffy, an episode in season 3, in which Giles threatens Snyder.  In that moment, more so than in any other, we get a glimpse not only of Giles' darkness but also of Anthony Stewart Head's range.  He's not just good to play stuffy British librarians and adulterous coffee aficionados, but can carry a complex and musical role such as that of Nathan in Repo! The Genetic Opera.

Rotti is the head of Geneco, a company that provides organs and other body parts for transplant and employs Nathan, the mysterious repo man who repossesses your organs if you don't keep up your payments.  Rotti's three children are spoiled, decadent brats and he can't bear to leave his company to them.  Motivated by jealousy, Rotti plots to turn Nathan's teen-aged daughter, Shilo, against him and bequeath Geneco to her.

Quite apart from Anthony Stewart Head's show-stopping performance, Repo! succeeds for numerous reasons.  The film has a highly stylized gothic look and feel about it.  The world of the repo man is a decrepit cityscape, once majestic but let to rot in the filth of glamorous excess.  The music, while perhaps not as full as it could have been (thanks to Lady D for articulating that thought) is still a challenging mix of styles and the film, true to its musical genre, tells its tale almost entirely in song.

Repo!'s story is filled with cunning plots, lies, and death.  Almost Shakespearean in nature, reminiscent of King Lear in particular, characters speak to themselves and address the audience at other times.  And then there's GraveDigger who is rather Puck-like in that he schemes sometimes for, sometimes against the other characters, but who also serves as a kind of Greek chorus, commenting on the proceedings.  Although not overly complicated, the story is layered as the lies built around the main characters have piled up over the years.  And as would befit any great tragedy, it all comes to a bloody head in the end.

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