If you’ve ever wondered what a live Scandinavian version of Donnie Darko without a storyline would be like, then Gisèle Vienne’s Kindertotenlieder is for you. Figures in black hoodies populate a foggy stage covered in fake snow. Death hangs in the air in the form of a (mostly) latent violence. Mystical creatures (in this case, Perchten) turn out to be mere costumes hiding humans. Disembodied voices have pseudo-philosophical conversations while performers smoke and drink beer. Some characters stand by unexplained, like a man in a red jogging suit might. KTL make the atmosphere even more dream-like with their eerie drone music.
Not since the book of poetry I wrote during my teenage years (titled Love and Other Violent Things, thank you very much) have so few words been used to communicate so much angst. Example of dialogue:
Jonathan I’m the coldest piece of shit in human history but your rotting, stinking corpse is so hot in theory I think it’ll melt me.
Ghost I’ve tried to kill myself so many times since I met you that every time you hit me it’s like the ten thousandth car running over a dead dog.
Sometimes the dialogue is less eloquent: “–Hey. –What. –This is how it’s going to happen. –What’s up. –Not much. I’m fucked up. –You into this?” Later: “–I don’t care. –You’re… It’s confusing me. –Jonathan. –What?”
One of the things it does get right is the contemporary disillusionment and malaise with boredom: “I’m boring. You’re boring. Sex is boring. Being tortured is boring. Being killed is boring.”
There is something potentially admirable about the fact that writer Dennis Cooper, far from being a teenager, is able to write as though he were one, without any perceivable distance or irony creeping in.
While I was watching Kindertotenlieder, I experienced a similar feeling as I had a few nights before while at the Ben Frost concert. It felt like something magical was about to happen, but in the end not much did. (Frost cancelled the concert because he was “not willing to give [us] a half-assed show on a half-assed PA.”) It was like the earplugs that were given to us before the show and which turned out to be barely necessary: somewhat of a fake-out.
As the show progressed, I saw no reason for the audience not to be onstage rather than simply watching the performance from afar. It’s all it might have taken to make it one of the most memorable experiences of the year.