Antigone: An Interview With Juliette Binoche, 2015

 

Reader: Atsuhide Ito

Juliette Binoche: : Lee Mackinnon

Editor: David Spraggs

Director: Atsuhide Ito

2015

 

Films stills with Lee Mackinnon in Antigone: An Interview with Juliette Binoche.

supported by 10 Days Winchester 2015 Chalk

Michel Foucault in his lectures especially in 1983 to 1984 discussed the notion of Parrhesia. Revelatory processes in the production of artworks coincide with philosopher’s attempt to uncover truth. In Socratic dialogues, truth is not equated with a notion of fact, but an immutablilty, while in Martin Heidegger’s writing it is an unfolding of the human relation to the world in which one is situated. As evident in Foucault’s work about the order of discourse truth is not a layer beneath a veneer.  The truth is contingent on the surface and the structure separating the surface and its content. Foucault as a historian traces historical tendencies at a few different points in the western thoughts and make them visible to the reader. He goes first of all to Socratic heresy.  And this legacy, according to Foucault, is carried to the Cynics, who were rather fragmented group of thinkers and who were seen as underdogs who barked against the elites.  The Cynics were a loose group of philosophers who came after the classic Greek philosophers but placed historically before the Stoics.  The only Stoic philosopher who was categorised by Foucault to be a Cynic is Epictetus who managed to carry Cynic courage and Stoic sophistication. Foucault provides the evidence of consistency of this institution of Parrhesia (the courageous talk, fearless speech). While Heidegger’s revelatory character of art is to uncovers truth, that is the human’s fundamental connection to their environment. Foucault’s interpretation of Parrhesia is a highly political kind of revelation. Foucault points out the Cynic Philosophy, the nineteenth century radical political movements and modern art as three which consistently carry the parrhesiastic intensions[1]. Following Foucault’s claim art in its history has lived through its fearlessness and artists have a potential of parrhesiastic speech and work and they have even a responsibility of initiating, taking an act of unfolding and un-concealing, or metaphorically speaking barking like the Cynics. Against this philosophical background of parrhesia, I read a report about the three Plowshare activists who broke into Y-12 national security complex in Oakridge Tennessee in the US. The three, Megan Rice, Michael Walli, Greg Boertje-Obed all were arrested for breaking into the uranium processing facility. They are in the genealogy of anti-nuclear activists including Anne Montgomery before them.  I wondered what motivated them to take a direct action. To link the notion of Parrhesia and political activism through art, Sophocles’ Antigone is an emblematic figure who possesses the complexity of becoming politically other and yet remains to be sincere to her conviction as an empathetic subject.

Antigone’s life is complex as her father is Oedipus and Oedipus is also her brother as Oedipus married his mother Jocasta unknowingly in Sophocles’ trilogy. As a consequence of Oedipus’ incestuous kin relations, Antigone is from her birth an anomaly to the normative kin relations; this is the point that Judith Butler (2000) discusses in details.

Antigone sprinkles dust over the dead brother, Polyneices’ body in order to carry out an arcane burial ritual though the King Creon has forbidden anyone to give Polyneices a proper burial.  In one scene, she is concealed in the dust storm so that she is not identified.  By the simple act of dusting, Antigone challenges the King Creon’s authority.  Having challenged the King Creon Antigone willingly chooses death as her destiny.  Among many scholars, Jacques Lacan (1992) in his chapters on Antigone discusses the aspect of Antigone transgressing the boundary between the human and the inhuman/gods.  Lacan focuses on the Greek term Até, which suggests the notion of boundary, limit and transgression.  Antigone who dusts to death is the one who is prepared to transgress a limit of humanity. 

In the work, Antigone: an Interview with Juliette BInoche, the distinction between the actress and Antigone gradually become blurred. Though the actress is supposed to take the role of the French actress Binoche, talking about acting as Antigone, the actress begins to go off from the originally intended script and voices her own concerns through the figure of Antigone.

 

[1] Foucault begins to discuss the connection between Cynic philosophy and modern art in his lecture on 29th February 1984. Page 186 onwards)

Antigone script extracts

 

Act 1.

 

Guard: it’s terrible news is why I hesitate

 

Kreon: talk

 

Guard: The corpse someone buried it. Someone threw chalk dust on it. Some did all the required holly stuff.

 

Kreon: what are you saying, what man would have dared.

 

Guard: I have no idea

Was there any mark or scratch or so much as a wagon rut no

Whoever did that he left no clue

You can’t see the body anymore

There’s no real burial mound just light chalk dust over it

But enough to clear the curse

No sign of animals or dogs or depredation

So then we fell shouting.

 

No one for sure, who could be sure? And we stood paralyzed staring at the ground.

 

Chorus: You know, King, it’s been my feeling for a long time now that gods are mixed up in this somehow.

 

Kreon: don’t say another word.  “gods mixed up in this?”

You think the gods buried him for his good intentions.

You think the gods gave him a prize for citizenship?

You’re wrong.

 

Whoever did this deed will pay the price.

Now, if you don’t find and bring to me the guilty man I ‘ll make you beg for death, you greedy little amateur terrorist.

 

Act 2

 

Chorus: Is there something supernatural going on here.

I think there is, I fear there is.  Here comes Antigone.  I can’t deny it. O you poor awful child of poor awful Oidipous.  Why do they drag you like a criminal, surely it wasn’t you defied the king’s law.

 

Guard:  this is the one. She did it. She did the deed. We caught her burying him where’s King Kreon?

 

Kreon: here’s Kreon.

 

Guard: well, king, miracles do happen. It’s the last thing expected but here I am and pretty pleased because I caught her she’s the one.

 

Kreon: explain how you caught her.

 

Guard: she was burying him

 

Kreon: are you absolutely sure of what you’re saying.

 

Guard: the corpse, the illegal, I saw her burying him, what more do you want?

Kreon: burying him how, when and where did you see her? How did you catch her ?  Details. I want details.

 

Guard: Ok. I went back wiped off all the chalk dust left that body bare.

We sat up on the hill. Was it hot yes,

Did I doze off no I did not

We were keeping each other awake with jibes and banter and time went by and the huge white sun in the centre of the sky

 

And all of a sudden a storm blew up a pillar of dust all the way to the sky,

A wind tore the hair off the trees and all the place was vibrating. We shut our eyes.  I sneaked a look. There she was the child making that weird little bird sound.

 

How they cry when they see the nest empty so she cried seeing the body bare so she cried and called down curses on whoever did the deed then she pours chalk dust on to the body with both hands.

 

From the older translation:

Suddenly a storm of chalk dust, like a plague from heaven swept over the ground, stripping the trees stark bare, filling the sky; you had to shut your eyes to stand against it.  When at last it stopped, there was a girl, screaming like an angry bird.

 

We rushed out and took her but she was unsurprised.  She denied nothing.

 

Kreon [to Antigone]: You did this deed. You deny it?

 

Antigone: I did the deed I do not deny it.

 

Kreon: You knew this deed to be forbidden by decree

 

Antigoen: of course I did

 

Kreon: and yet you dared to disobey the law

Antigone: well, if you call that law

Kreon: yes, I do.

Antigone: Justice does not

 

What they call law did not begin today or yesterday

You thought I would transgress them for fear of some mere mortal man’s decree?

No. Death has no pain.  To leave my mother’s son lying out there unburied that would be pain.

 

Chorus: She’s got a soul as raw as her father. Doesn’t she no sense of compromise?

 

Antigone: I am someone born to share in love not hatred.

 

Act 3

 

Kreon: Is the girl not tainted with that malady?

 

Haimon: The whole city of Thebes says otherwise.

 

Kreon: Shall Thebes prescribe to me how I should rule?

 

Haimon: Listen to yourself you sound like a boy dictator. No city belongs to a single man.

 

Kreon: Surely a city belongs to its ruler

 

Haimon: why not find a desert and rule all alone.

 

Kreon: thus canst never marry her

 

Haimon: then she will die and take another with her.  You talk and talk and never listen.

 

Kreon: Let her die hard against her bridegroom now this very instant before his eyes.

 

Haimon: Never no never.

 

 

Act 4

 

Chorus:

 

Well. I am having my own doubts about the laws of the land and I no longer can restrain a stream of tears when I see Antigone here passing to the room where we all go in the end.

 

Antigone:

Look at me people. I go my last road, I see my last light. Look. Death who gathers all of us into his old bent arms in the end is gathering me but I am still alive no wedding, no wedding song, no wedding chamber, yet I shall lie as a bride in the bed of the river of Death while I am still alive.

 

Chorus:

 

Oh, yes, but won’t you win glory, won’t you be praised?  It is not as if you are dying of disease or war.  You choose to be autonomous and so you die, the only one of mortals to go down to Death alive.

 

Antigone:

No one knows what kind of laws they are that sentence me.

 

Chorus:

 

Well, piety is nice but authority is authority.  You have in you a kind of absolute exclusive self-regarding rage.  It has destroyed you.

 

Antigone:

Unwept, unwed, unloved I go,  The road is there before me.  This light of day is not for my eyes anymore. Who will lament me.  No one will lament me.

 

And I go down to death though I am still alive.  What kind of justice is this?

 

I was caught in an act of perfect piety.

 

Chorus: The power of fate is a strange, terrible, clever, uncanny, wondrous, monstrous, marvelous, dreadful, awful, weird power.

 

Kreon: what, why? I feel suddenly cold.

I am shaking. On the one hand to give in now would be terrible, equally terrible of course to stand fast and be ruined.

 

Chorus: Take advice.

 

Kreon: Tell me.

 

Chorus: Set the girl free bury the boy. Quick quick quick, catastrophe can outrun fools.

 

Act 6

 

Messenger: Haimon folded himself around the girl and breathed a thread of red red blood onto her white white cheek so he lay a corpse on a corpse and his bridal consummation was in the house of Death.

 

Kreon: what now, what worse?

 

Messsenger: Your wife, Her wounds are recent.

 

Kreon: You take a man already broken and grind him to chalk dust.