Guest Blog: The Hollywood Movie and Inspiration Behind Celluloid Souls

From Nazis to Hugh Grant, Thelma & Louise to Back to the Future, Zoo Indigo discuss the Hollywood movie and their inspiration behind Celluloid Souls, arriving Sun 11 March. Book your tickets here.

Hello, We are Rosie and Ildiko from Zoo indigo, and we are looking forward to performing Celluloid Souls at CPT on the 11 March as part of Sprint. We hope you can make it – because this is your show, made from your favourite movie moments.

Celluloid Souls is about our obsession with the movies, about how we measure our lives against the ideal scenarios and happy endings played out on the glimmering silver screen as we dream ourselves into Hugh Grant’s arms from the darkness of the cinema auditorium. As we imagine ourselves dancing with Patrick Swayze, our delicate feminine figure being lifted into the sky by his strong masculine hands. Or maybe as we stick it to the man, driving with gusto into the Grand Canyon, still holding hands, never being caught.

Movies are part of our collective memory and evoke an emotion of nostalgia, a sense of shared experience, they become part of our personal histories. Considering how we romanticise cinema, the question arises as to how ‘real’ our feelings can ever be if they are patterned on these pre-existing cultural texts, or blueprints. We were fascinated with the desires that movies evoke, desires to find love, to find a happy end, to be a hero, to drive a DeLorean at 88 mph, to tap dance in the rain, to kiss in the rain whilst not noticing that it is raining, to hang off a cliff in the getaway bus.

Movies, particularly popular Hollywood movies, are a powerful means of manipulation, reinforcing cultural norms, such as gender or cultural stereotypes. Rosie wants to be in a Western, but the women never leave the ranch, or the brothel, unless they are saved by their man who will offer them a backy on his horse. … So she wants to be a cowwoman, the independent heroine riding towards mountain peaks… As a German I don’t shine in the prettiest of lights in Hollywood movies, often I am the baddy, the villain, quite probably a Nazi, and I have the worst fashion sense imaginable. If not leather coats and boots it will be socks and sandals. But I want to be a German superhero with fabulous outfits…Like a German Lara Croft: Lara Kraut.

But then – the Germans were the baddies. The Nazis. And they were masters of using film as propaganda, Goebbels a horrendous genius of manipulation. The Nazis described this process as “Gleichschaltung”, translating to “Same-Switching”. All of us eventually thinking the same, hating the same. Brainwashing.

“Der Film ist eines der modernsten und weitreichendsten Mittel der Beeinflussung der Massen”, he famously proclaimed, meaning:

“Film is one of the most modern and far-reaching methods used to influence the masses.”

And the Nazis made great use of the manipulative powers of the medium, portraying Jews as un-humans, criminals – clichéd movie villains. But the most unbearable of Nazi propaganda films took a different approach. The Nazis used the Jewish Ghetto in Theresienstadt (now Terezin, Czech Republic) as a film-set for a propaganda film, forcing the prisoners to act out the blissful day-to- dayness in the camp with the aim to deceive the world that concentration camps offered relaxing retirement spas for the Jewish community.

The prisoners are seen gardening, playing football, visiting a concert. They are forced to smile but the terror in their eyes tells a different story. Once filming was completed most of the prisoners who acted in the Theresienstadt propaganda film were murdered in Auschwitz. But the International Red Cross was convinced that the concentration camps were safe, and the inmates treated humanely.

In 2017 we visited the Theresienstadt memorial, the propaganda film projected onto the wall alongside the meticulously planned story boards. The horror still oozing from the brick walls. The Hollywood “Gleichschaltung” is more subtle, but continuously re-enforces traditional gender norms and heteronormativity, and the industry is still largely male-dominated. There are changes taking place, and during the Oscars 2018 Frances McDormand referred to Stacy Smith’s concept of the ‘inclusion rider’, “a clause that an actor can insist be inserted in their contract that requires cast and crew on a film to meet a certain level of diversity” (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/mar/05/what-is- an-inclusion- rider-frances- mcdormand-oscars- 2018). McDormand also asked all female nominees to stand, celebrating female creatives in the industry, but also highlighting the fact that they are still a minority. And women furthermore continue being seeing through the fleshy lens of the male gaze in many movies.

We have been watching hundreds of movies, throughout our lives and for the research of this project, and we laughed and cried and were immersed in fiction. We re-emerged and looked more critically at Hollywood brainwashing on how to live our lives, and with Celluloid Souls we aim to humorously deconstruct movie stereotypes. It is both an homage and a critique, with playful dressing up, wigs, moustaches and fake sideburns.