In this work, I analyze Peter Brook's film interpretation of Peter Weiss' modernist drama Die Verfolgung und Ermordung Jean-Paul Marats dargestellt durch die Schauspielgruppe des Hospizes zu Charenton unter Anleitung des Herrn de Sade (Marat/Sade, 1964-5) in terms of the dialectical aesthetic of the latter. Weiss had intended Marat/Sade to be a literal, figurative and aesthetic debate on equal footing between the dramatic theories of Bertolt Brecht and Antonin Artaud, portrayed respectively through the figures of the French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat and the epicurean cynic Marquis de Sade. Techniques of Brechtian distanciation are also employed within the written play alongside contradictory Artaudian elements of grotesquerie and horror, each grappling with the other in an unresolved dialectic. Yet Brook's filmed version of his stage production unintentionally transgresses against Weiss' play-without-a-resolution, primarily siding with Sade, Artaud and the "theater of cruelty." Though the French and German New Wave movements in cinema, which questioned the artifice of film production using Brechtian alienation techniques, were contemporary with Brook's film in 1966, the film appears not to have taken these movements into account while trying to portray Weiss' dialectic in its cinematography and mise en scène. I contend that the violence portrayed within Brook's Marat/Sade is broadcast as a spectacle to be consumed by an omnipresent viewer, whereas Weiss cogently intertwines such brutality with a concrete understanding of its mechanical function within society. This begs the question of how one can filmically portray cruelty both as spectacle and as socio-political reality.
Torner, Evan M.
"The Cinematic Defeat of Brecht by Artaud in Peter Brook’s Marat/Sade,"
EDGE - A Graduate Journal for German and Scandinavian Studies: Vol. 1
, Article 1.
Available at: https://scholarworks.umass.edu/edge/vol1/iss1/1