The 10 Selected Productions
based on Thomas Mann
Deutsches Theater Berlin
Live stream premiere 20 November 2020
Once again, Sebastian Hartmann takes on a monumental novel; he leaves characters and linear narration behind and explores time and dreaming together with his high-energy cast.
- 2 h
- In German with English subtitles
This is the third time that Sebastian Hartmann brings an epochal work of world literature to the Theatertreffen-stage. He dissolves all of the formally rigorous plotlines in Thomas Mann’s “Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain)” about Hans Castorp’s seven-year sojourn in a sanatorium on the eve of the First World War and transfers them into an intense rush of images. Seven actors wander through an incessant snow-storm, circling a recurring question in manifold, disturbing monologues: What is the body in the course of time? Originally planned for a physically present audience, the production was radically adjusted for live streaming by Hartmann’s team. This new set-up shows video artist Tilo Baumgärtel’s worlds of images and Samuel Wiese’s music to even greater advantage.
Theatertreffen-juror Franz Wille about the production
In this production, the text material remaining from Thomas Mann’s coming-of-age novel set in the high mountains are the “Snow”-chapter and the final chapter with its brutal battle scenes from the First World War. “Snow” is the tale of a gradual loss of control during a skiing tour, almost to the point of freezing to death, shot through again and again with the violent excesses of trench warfare.
Director Sebastian Hartmann shows these spheres of experience – loss of control, helplessness and violence – as an increasingly expressive performance by an anonymous cast in white make-up and shapeless padding. There is no trace of the novel’s highly-controlled narrative structures which he still adhered to ten years ago, in his first “Zauberberg”-production in Leipzig. The storyline has been scattered to the four winds, identifiable characters have been lost and even Hans Castorp would be hard to find.
Deutsches Theater Berlin, of course, was closed on opening night. Instead, the piece was streamed live on a single date, 20 November 2020, recorded from various camera angles in front of an empty auditorium: theatre for a pandemic. The stream was a flow of images showing dissociation and dissolution. The succession of texts used is a wild scrap collection where space and time dissect themselves. Dream sequences in which Castorp believes himself to be wandering Arcadian landscapes alternate with murder and fantasies of witchcraft, with descriptions of nature and ponderings on the difference between dead and living matter, essential questions of life such as – “What is the body?” – and impressions from the lung sanatorium’s radiology lab. All this is interposed with Markwart Müller-Elmau’s shivering and feverish invocations of increasingly bloody World War-scenarios. The actors operate on a high level of energy throughout: faces twisted with pain, panicked entrances, desperate whispers or hyper-mechanic movement frenzy.
“I am lost to the world” – the leitmotif-quote by Castorp, a fugitive of time, suspended from everything that happens in the world of the valley during his seven-year rest cure, suddenly resounds through the storm of text and images and is a rather sobering and accurate description of the situation. The time portrait presented in “Zauberberg” may not help to clarify the current condition, but it presents a pretty good likeness.
Sebastian Hartmann Director and set designer
Adriana Braga Peretzki Costume design
Samuel Wiese Music
Tilo Baumgärtel Video animation
Lothar Baumgarte Lighting design
Claus Caesar Dramaturgy
Jan Speckenbach Live stream image control
Marlene Blumert, Max Hohendahl, Dorian Sorg Live stream cameras
Lennart Löttker Scenic video
Peter Stoltz Head of stream
Marcel Braun, Björn Mauder Transmission audio
Marcel Braun, Eric Markert Sound
Elias Arens, Manuel Harder, Markwart Müller-Elmau, Linda Pöppel, Birgit Unterweger, Cordelia Wege, Niklas Wetzel
Samuel Wiese Live music