No director left a mark to the art of theater in the 20th century more than Peter Brook – Spotlight to the iconic director and the great artistic legacy he left behind

No director left a mark to the art of theater in the 20th century more than Peter Brook, who passed away this year at the age of 97. But Brook’s spiritual adventure also expanded in cinema: five great films – from the legendary Lord of the Flies (1963) to the five-hour long epic Mahabharata (1989) – give the portrait of a great and innovative artist. The spotlight to Peter Brook is complemented by a soulful documentary-portrait, shot in 2002 by his son, also a director, Simon Brook, who will be in Thessaloniki to talk about his father and the great artistic legacy he left behind.

Moderato Cantabile
Peter Brook
France
1960, 91΄

A beautiful woman leads a banal life as the trophy wife of a town’s leading industrialist. Her only pleasure is her interactions with her seven-year-old son. But one day, the incident of a murder in a quayside bistro grants her an opportunity to change everything. Rushing to the crime scene, she strikes up a conversation with an employee of her husband who also saw the crime. The two of them (magnificently played by Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jeanne Moreau, who was awarded at Cannes for her performance) speculate on the circumstances which led to the killing whilst toying subliminally with the idea of an affair. As desire intertwines with fear, obsession starts to emerge… A standout in Peter Brook’s filmography, this open reference to the spirit of Nouvelle Vague, co-scripted by Marguerite Duras and masterfully photographed by the prolific Armand Thirard, reeks with Camusian angst and ravishes with existential aesthetics.

Lord of the Flies
Peter Brook
United Kingdom
1963, 92΄

Following a plane crash, a group of schoolboys find themselves on a deserted island. They appoint a leader and attempt to create an organized society for the sake of their survival. Democracy and order soon begin to crumble when a breakaway faction regresses to savagery with horrifying consequences. An adaptation of Nobel Prize-winner William Golding’s 1954 dystopian novel, which investigates mankind’s inherent savagery (and a cinematic translation of Brook’s legendary stage adaptation), the film leads the viewer from hope to disaster, with the same awe and hesitation an insect is drawn to light.

Tell me Lies (A Film about London)
Peter Brook
United Kingdom
1968, 99΄

An essential film balancing many different tones and registers, and gaining a whole different sense of timeliness in our turbulent times, which might be read as Brook’s love letter to his craft and his country. “Subtitled A Film About London, this drama is a quintessential experimental counter-culture film of the late 1960s that centers on the questions raised by the Vietnam war. Renowned Shakespearean theater director Peter Brook serves as producer and director. It includes many members of the Royal Shakespeare Company … [who] become obsessed with a photograph of a wounded Vietnamese child and begin discussing the war with their friends and fellow actors… The discussions are combined with newsreel footage in a bizarre collage of images. Moved to do something, the group of actors puts on a series of skits about the war.” (Michael Betzold, The New York Times).

Meetings With Remarkable Men
United Kingdom
1979, 90΄

Meetings with Remarkable Men tells the story of G. I. Gurdjieff and his search for hidden knowledge and inner growth, based on his book by the same name. The movie follows his journeys through Central Asia as he discovers new levels of understanding through music, dance, and near-encounters with death. As a young man exploring ancient ruins, Gurdjieff discovers scrolls confirming the existence of a brotherhood long thought to be extinct. He begins a search that leads through unforeseeable hazards and finally to a school where he learns to bring together all the principles of esoteric teaching. Made on location in the forbidding, rarely photographed mountains and deserts of Afghanistan, the film has been widely acclaimed for its unique visual beauty. A truly immersive and life-changing viewing experience.

The Mahabharata
Peter Brook
United States, United Kingdom, France
1989, 312΄

The admission to the screening will be free and a Q&A with Georges Corraface will follow

Adapted from the Indian epic poem of the same title (the longest in human history, counting 2,000 years of existence and 100,000 stanzas), Peter Brook’s Mahabharata is a true masterpiece showcasing all the maker’s trademarks – and, most of all, his visual and narrative poetic economy. Following the conflict between two Indian families of common ancestry (the descendants of the gods of earthly harmony, patience, and wisdom, and their eternal dark rivals), the screen adaptation of a monumental nine-hour production that helped redefine theater, is a profound, breathtaking, and inspiring expression of mankind’s attempt to make sense of the often baffling and terrifying human experience; at the same time, it illuminates which values are essential for human survival and fulfillment. And as its bearded creator and storyteller says to an inquiring youth in the beginning, “Mahabharata is the poetical history of mankind… If you listen carefully, in the end, you’ll be someone else.”

Brook by Brook
Simon Brook
France, Belgium
2002, 72΄

Peter Brook delivers himself with tenderness to a privileged interlocutor, his son. He speaks about his work and the main times of his career (I am a phenomenon, Costume, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Cherry Orchard, The Man Who, Hamlet…). The theater is in the middle of the film, but Brook also evokes his course with cinema, opera, and his love of the voyage… The dialogue between father and son is illustrated with personal anecdotes and family memories. An intimate and radiant portrait.

The 63rd Thessaloniki International Film Festival will be held from Thursday 3 to Sunday 13 November 2022, both in physical spaces and online. Within the framework of the 63rd TIFF, 199 full-length and 68 short films will be screened in the time-honoured home ground of the Festival, theatres Olympion, Pavlos Zannas, the theatres situated in the Port of Thessaloniki, Frida Liappa, Tonia Marketaki, John Cassavetes, Stavros Tornes, as well in the movie theatre Makedonikon. In addition, the audience will have the chance to watch 93 films online, through the digital platform of the Festival, online.filmfestival.gr.

Multifaceted and stunning Charlotte Gainsbourg will attend the Festival, on the occasion of the screening of her film, Passengers of the Night by Mikhaël Hers, within the framework of the Open Horizons section of the 63rd TIFF. Moreover, lifelong friend of both the Festival and the city of Thessaloniki, Fatih Akin, will land in Thessaloniki to greet the audience in the screening of his latest film, Rhinegold.

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