The Man Without a Past / Aki Kaurismäki
A play about love
Most of the performance takes place without any background, in the bare, empty spaces of the stage. Only for the first scene do we see something, the characteristically diagonal wall of the train station and “homecoming” bordering the empty space (stage design Andrej Ďurík). Unfortunately, handling it was quite disruptive. The short scenes between the robbery and the arrival of the Man Without a Past to the homeless colony were likewise encumbered with some awkward symbolism.
The path to perceiving everything unpronounceable in theater opens up for us a delicate, quite distinctive style of absurd humor contained in the intonations, music and singing, the wordless communication or the movements (Kristýna Lhotáková). At times this type of performance reminds us of a musical, freely dispensing needless bits of joy, at other times it’s like one of Beckett’s existential farces. Some real unique theater.
Marie Reslová, Hospodářské noviny
The tragicomedy The Man Without a Past has an unmistakable “Finnish” atmosphere, is minimalist in approach and is, despite the cheerful moments and happy ending, quite oppressive. The new look was probably a bigger challenge for Krobot. His interpretation of this drama about a robbed and beaten up man who forgets not only his own name but also everything about his life before and finds consolation only in the arms of a self-sacrificing woman working for the Salvation Army is crazier and funnier.
The shift in perspective is clear: where the film version seethed with hopelessness, the Czech theatergoing public was often quite amused. The comedy steamrolled past the tragedy, with the director adding humor very specific to us and in doing so completely changed the work. He was not afraid to incorporate jokes like Finnish vodka randomly appearing in a dirty old refrigerator or some truly bizarre dance-movement numbers.
The actors, however, do not make faces or exhibit tawdry behavior, thanks to which even the most absurd scene underscores the originality of the staging. The same is true with the costumes, most of which looks like it came from a cheap secondhand shop, and a restrained, albeit intelligent setting that goes well with the interiors and exteriors. The remarkable music of Marek Doubrava also does its part, rounded off moreover with songs by the Beach Boys. After the acting, the music is the next most important workhorse of the performance, pervading individual scenes or coming to a complete stop and suddenly announcing that a shred of memory has returned to the Man Without a Past, who since the beginning has been presented as something of a musical buff.
Kateřina Rathouská, MF DNES
Each of your productions is to a certain degree something like a report about what you’re actually thinking, about the state we all find ourselves in. What is the theme of The Man Without a Past?
I saw an interview with Kaurismäki on YouTube. He drank probably a liter of wine mixed with beer during it. They asked him: What is the task of the director? He stared for a moment and then said: You must give people hope. Or: And what are the biggest problems today that interest you? And he again stared for a minute and said: You know, I have a problem with alcohol. And that was the spirit of the interview and what I felt from it was a great sadness on one hand, but on the other an incredibly entertaining bewilderment that it’s still a play. He himself speaks of The Man Without a Past as a social-democratic romance. There is so much longing for plain, simple things, for home, for relationships. The author is heading towards a happy ending because that’s what he wants or would like to have, but at the same time knows that it’s not to be. I really like to read science fiction. It is also something like a longing for a moment to escape. Make your own beautiful world or something like that... many people have such longings today. I’m not at all ashamed about it, but I would like it to be a little alienated. This is my first such play about happiness. I think that given the situation we live in today, it has a special resonance.
Miroslav Krobot in an interview with Maria Reslová for Hospodářské noviny