This is 3D cinema. Please wear your 3D glasses.
We put on our pretend glasses, as Mamoru Iriguchi comes before us, naked except for his underwear and a giant projection screen (complete with projector) around his head. “Hello,” he says, “I’m Marlene Dietrich.” As openers go, you have to admit, it’s intriguing.
What follows is a heady concoction of performance, multimedia and conceptual art which questions our very understanding of what film is, and what the theatre can be. It’s pretty tricky to describe exactly what happens, but I’ll give it a go. It involves the life and work of Marlene Dietrich – which at first Iriguchi enacts from birth until death, using audience interaction, projections, clips from her films, and recordings played backwards. All the facts are spurious and most of them are wrong. There’s a sense of growing unease as we hurtle towards her final dramatic execution (an homage to the scene in Dishonoured). Oh, and Iriguchi makes some eggnog.
The second half of the piece (welcome to 4D cinema) involves the entire performance being literally played backwards; without our knowledge, the whole first half had been filmed. As the performance gallops along in reverse, Iriguchi sits and captions the now basically silent movie we are watching. This is the story of Dietrich from death until birth – except, this way round, certain things that didn’t make sense forward now begin to add up. This story makes more sense to us. The 4D creates a new dimension in space and time, in which anything seems possible. Even eggs can become un-eggnog-ed.
Iriguchi’s piece makes us question the whole construct of film: the presentation of facts, the editing process, the very framing effect that film has on the world. The first half is an entertaining, slightly wacky ramble into the unknown. But the second half has a real impact; the film, recordings and performance combine to create a remarkably haunting effect. Iriguchi works (or worked) prominently as a theatre designer and though his performance, particularly his speech, isn’t always very strong, the spectacle and sheer magic he creates through his design, imagery and ideas more than makes up for it.
His choice of Dietrich as a subject is also astute. Her long and illustrious career was full of dualities and conflicts (such as her identity as a German-American, particularly during the war). This dichotomy spills out into the cinema – into the division between fantasy and reality, 3D and 4D, time and space.
In all, 4D Cinema is a fun, flamboyant and incredibly outlandish piece – honestly, one of the strangest things you’re likely to see. But, with some richly layered concepts and thought-provoking ideas, it’s also an incredibly powerful piece which constantly challenges and surprises.