Luigi Pirandello: In Search of an Author documentary (1987)


[SIDE CONVERSATION] Oh, why can one never go
to the first night of a Pirandello play without
there being a fight? Let’s just hope no
one gets hurt. It’s a fine state of
affairs, though. I mean, when you come to other
people’s plays, you can make yourself comfortable and accept
the illusion that the stage creates for you. That is, if it manages
to create one at all. [LAUGHTER] But when you come to a
Pirandello play, you have to hang on to the arms of your
seats with both hands, put your head down, ready to butt
back everything the writer tries to shove at you. I mean, you hear a word–
take any word, take chair, for instance. Oh my god, did you hear that? He said, chair. I’m not going to let him
get away with that. Who knows what might
be under the chair. Yes. It could be anything,
everything, except, that is, for a bit of poetry. Exactly. And what we want is poetry. Look, if you want poetry, why
don’t you look for it under somebody else’s chair? Oh. We’ve had enough of this
spasmodic nihilism. And the pleasure he gets
from denying things. Being negative just isn’t
constructive. Mm, bene, bene. Burn me. And as soon as my body has been
burnt, the ashes must be thrown to the winds. For I want nothing, not even
my ashes, to remain. But if this cannot be done, the
funeral urn must be taken to Sicily and walled into some
rough stone near Agrigento, where I was born. In this addition to his will,
Luigi Pirandello resigned himself to a place in history. With the understanding
of human nature which characterizes his work, he
realized that as Italy’s leading playwright, his last
remains would not be allowed to vanish without a trace
as he wished. So they lie where Pirandello was
born, within a few square kilometers of Sicily between
Agrigento and the sea, at one of the southernmost
points in Europe. The area was first colonized
by the Greeks with their temples and amphitheatres
in 800 BC. And it’s still known by its
Greek name, Kaos, or chaos. Pirandello was literally, as he
proudly claimed, a son of chaos, an appropriate title
for a writer whose work contains all the shifting
uncertainty, anxieties, and formlessness of modern
existence. Pirandello brought his Art
Theatre to London in 1925, at the beginning of what was to
be a triumphant world tour. At 58, he’d lived more of
his life in the 19th century than the 20th. But he’d just reached the high
point of his career. The previous five years had seen
the controversial opening of plays like Six Characters
in Search of an Author and Henry IV, plays in which
Pirandello’s originality finally burst through to an
international audience, which was now ready to recognize a
new and unmistakable 20th century voice. Quiet please, the
producer’s here. Good morning. Good morning, everyone. I can’t see a thing here. Can we have some lights. Workers, please. [GROANING] Too early. What is the point of four
generations of light in one lifetime, eh? Yes, four. I was born by oil lamp. I grew up with paraffin. I studied by gas light. And I’ve always written
by electric. It’s too many. Hurts the eyes. And I’m quite sure it
can harm the mind. Maybe it can. Good. Right. Let’s get started. The house of Leone Gala, a
peculiar room, both dining room and study. On stage are Leone Gala, Guido
Venanzi, and Philip, who is known as Socrates. When the curtain rises, Leone
Gala, in a cook’s hat and apron, is beating an egg in a
dish with a wooden spoon. Philip is beating another, and
he is dressed as a cook too. Guido Venanzi is sitting
listening. Right. Now remember in the first act,
Leone has explained to his wife’s lover Guido that cooking
helps him keep his balance in what he calls
the game of life. Now, you must keep up the pace
in this scene at all costs. Give that to me. Yes, my dear Venanzi, he’s so
rude to me sometimes I wonder why I put up with him. Don’t talk so much and carry
on beating that egg. You see, Venanzi, anyone would
think that he was the master and I was the servant. But he amuses me, you see. Philip is my tame devil. I wish the devil would
fly away with you. Now, you see he’s swearing. One can hardly talk to him. No need to talk. Just shut up. [LAUGHTER] Really, Socrates. Now, don’t you start calling
me Socrates. To hell with Socrates. I’ve had enough of it
from the master. I don’t even know who he is. What, you don’t know him? No, signor. And I don’t want to have
anything to do with him. Keep an eye on that egg. All right, I’m watching it. How are you beating it? With a spoon, of course. Yes, yes. But which side of the
spoon are you using? Oh, the back. Don’t worry. He used not to be like this. Bergson has done for him. Oh, now he’s trotting out that
Bergson thing again. Yes, and why not? Do you know, Venanzi, since I
expounded to him Bergson’s theory on intuition, he’s been
a completely different man. He used to be a powerful
thinker. I’ve never been a thinker,
for your information. You see? There. And I’m not allowed to say that
Bergson has ruined him. Mark you, I agree with
what you say about his views on reason. Well, if you agree, there’s
nothing more to be said. Beat that egg. I’m beating it. I’m beating it. But just listen a moment. According to Bergson, everything
in reality that is fluid, living, mobile, and
indeterminate lies beyond the scope of reason. Though, how it manages to escape
reason, I don’t know, seeing that Bergson is
able to say it does. What makes him say so, if
it isn’t, is reason. And in that case, it seems to me
it can’t be beyond reason. What do you say? And what are you doing now? Right you are, I’m
beating the egg. Look. You’re not concentrating. All this talk about reason has
taken your mind off what you’re supposed to be doing. Oh, you’re so impatient,
my dear fellow. I’m perfectly aware of the
necessity of beating eggs. And as you can see, I accept
and obey that necessity. But am I not allowed to use
my mind for anything else? You really are wonderful,
the pair of you. Oh, no, no, no. You’re wrong there. I’m wonderful, if you like. But he, for a long time now,
since he became corrupted by Bergson, in fact. No one has corrupted me,
if you don’t mind. Yes, my dear chap. Ah! You’ve become so deplorably
human, I don’t recognize you anymore. Pirandello wrote Rules of the
Game, from which that scene comes, in 1919– a time when all the certainties
of life had been shattered by World War I. 19th
century philosophical notions of an ordered logical universe
lay in ruins all over Europe. At the same time, his wife,
who’d been ill, went into an asylum. And it seems that private and
public events conspired to release in him a sudden burst
of creative energy. The main idea in Pirandello’s
theatre is that nothing is true, either in the theatre
or in life. Human identity is unstable. We can’t really communicate with
each other because it’s impossible for one person ever
to know how another really thinks and feels. And we don’t plan our lives. We simply improvise our
way through them. So-called reality is in
fact an illusion. Now, all of this is
very theatrical. The philosophical paradoxes are
those which any first-year undergraduate comes on. And though startling at first,
we all soon learn to live with them. But the theatre is not really
a place for ideas as such. And it’s the way that Pirandello
embodies them in dramatic characters and
situations which makes him an original writer. But like all writers, he doesn’t
come out of nowhere. He is an Italian, and he comes
from the Commedia dell’Arte and from the popular
improvisational theatre of Italy of his day, a theatre
which can still be seen there in one form or another. It’s full of huge characters
with star parts and great comic turns. And everything is done with
tremendous dizzying speed. But of course, he wasn’t
just an Italian. He was a man of Europe
and of his day. He knew about the futurists. He knew about the Theatre
of the Grotesque. And all these elements somehow
combined in him to produce what has become known as
transcendental farce, more familiar to us, perhaps, as
black farce, the kind of theatre which we associate with Ionesco and Harold Pinter. A comic writer can often get his
audience to go further and deeper than they really want. He can con them along against
their own natural distrust of seriousness. And what Pirandello does is to
lure us into questioning the whole nature of theater and
theatrical illusion. Brecht did the same kind of
thing a few years later. But Brecht wanted us to think,
and Pirandello wanted to daze and dazzle us into feeling the
same kind of horror that he felt at the pointlessness
of human existence. WEBVTT Hm. To me, it was never enough to
present a man or a woman simply for the pleasure of
presenting them, to tell a particular story simply for the
pleasure of telling it, or to describe a landscape simply
for the pleasure of describing it. Hm. There are some writers who
feel this pleasure and satisfied ask no more. But they are what I would
call historical writers. Now, there are others who,
beyond such pleasure, feel a more profound spiritual need. And these are, more precisely,
philosophical writers. And I have the misfortune
to belong to these last. Hm. How long do you think my speech should be tonight, Marta? Not too long. I don’t want them to forget
my performance. They won’t understand a word
of what you’re saying. My dear, they won’t need to. Each man makes the best
he can of his mask– his public mask, that is. For within each of us, there
is an inner-mask which contradicts the outer one. Nothing is true. Oh yes, the sea, a mountain,
a blade of grass, a rock. These things are true. But man, always wearing
a mask, unwillingly, unwittingly. A mask of what he, in good
faith, believes himself to be. But he invents so much and
creates so many characters that he must believe in
and take seriously. One night in June, I dropped
down like a firefly beneath a huge pine tree standing all on
its own in an olive growth on the edge of a blue, clay
plateau, overlooking the African Sea. We know about fireflies. It’s as if the blackness
exists solely for their benefit, so that they can show
off their pale, green gleam. Every now and then, one of them
falls and on the ground gives a sigh of green light,
as it from very far away. That was how I dropped down on
that June night, while so many other yellow fireflies twinkled
on the hill, near a city cursed with the plague. Out of fear of the plague, my
mother gave birth to me prematurely. Because so many people died
every day that year, one single birth was regarded as a
form of compensation and was considered all the more
important, the more insignificant it actually was. I believe people will think it
inevitable that I should have been born there rather than
anywhere else, and at that moment rather than any other. Although I must admit that
I, myself, have no views on the matter. [SPEAKING ITALIAN] [SPEAKING ITALIAN] The theatre is a public trial
of human actions as they really are. But it’s set in that other
reality, that eternal realm, which the poetic imagination
creates as both an example and a warning for our confused,
everyday lives. The theatre is a public trial
of human actions as they really are. But it is set in that other
reality, that eternal realm which the poetic imagination has
created as both an example and a warning for our confused,
everyday lives. It’s trial by a human audience
which spurs on the consciences of the judges themselves to an
even loftier and more rigorous moral life. Is that what you mean? Yes, very [INAUDIBLE]. Exactly. If you could just come put your
beard on, we’ll do the appearance– [SPEAKING ITALIAN] What author can say how and why
a character is born in his imagination? Several years ago, my
imagination had the unfortunate inspiration, or
maybe it was just caprice, to bring a family into my house. I don’t know where it
fished them up from. But apparently, I should be
able to find in them the subject for a magnificent
novel. I could touch them and even hear
them breathe when they were in my presence, each with a
secret torment and all bound together by the one common
origin and entanglement of their affairs, while I
introduced them into the world of art, constructing from their
persons, their passions, and their adventures a novel, a
drama, or at least a story. We’re looking for an author. An author? Which author? Any author will do, sir. I am not writing a new play. That’s better still. Better still. We can be your new play. Will you please go away? I have not time to
waste on idiots. You know very well, as a man of
the theatre, that life is full of all sorts of odd things
which have no need at all to pretend to be
real because they are actually true. Now, however much I tried, I
couldn’t find a meaning, anything of universal value
in the characters. So I concluded that it was no
use making them live and did all I could to forget them. Isn’t it your job to give
life on the stage to imaginary people? I suddenly saw a way out
of my difficulty. Why not present this highly
strange fact of an author who refuses to allow some of
his characters to live. But once his imagination has
given birth to them, they had refused to remain excluded
from the world of art? In the desperate struggle for
existence that they had waged with me, they had become
dramatic characters who could move and talk on their own. So I thought, why not allow
them to go where dramatic characters should go, in order
to exist, onto a stage, And let us see what will happen? I’ll have you know that we have
brought to life here on this stage many immortal
works. There, you see? Good. You’ve given life. You’ve created living beings
with more genuine life than people who breathe
and wear clothes. Less real, perhaps, but
nearer the truth. All right, all right. But where does all
this get us? Nowhere. I want to try to show that one
can be thrust into life in many ways, in many forms. As a tree or a stone. As water or a butterfly. Or as a woman. It might even be as a
character in a play. And you, all these other
characters, were thrust into life, as you put it, as
characters in a play? Exactly. And alive, as you can see. [LAUGHTER] I’m sorry you laugh like that. Because we carry in us a story
of terrible anguish, as you can guess from this woman
dressed in black. Six Characters in Search of
an Author is probably Pirandello’s best-known play. As you can see, it’s about a
writer’s relationship between his audience and
his characters. The six characters who demand to
have their story told are a father and stepdaughter,
locked in some terrible psychological conflict,
a mother, son, and two other children. At some stage, the father left
the mother because he thought she’d be happier with
another man. And off she’s gone and had
three children by him. But now this other man’s
dead, and she’s returned to her husband. But she’s in a terrible state
because she’s found out that he and the stepdaughter had
some kind of incestuous encounter in a brothel. Clearly, the family
relationships have reached a pitch of quite intolerable
stress. As a result, the story comes out
in a series of incoherent fragments, which we, as
the audience, are invited to put together. Pirandello makes us, in
a sense, the author. Why did he decide to do this? Well, perhaps because the
material was too personal. He felt he couldn’t
scale it down to a neat, theatrical formula. He himself said the story was
too melodramatic, but I’m not sure whether we need necessarily
believe that. But taking the audience into
his confidence, making us share in his creativity, might
have been a way for him to conceal profound feelings, a
terrible anguish, like that of which the father speaks. Fragmentation of material,
questioning a writer’s motives about human relationships, and
how he deals with these, playing with theatrical
conventions– all this makes Pirandello
a very modern writer. But Six Characters is not
a stylistic exercise. Although it has a tricksy
surface, there is real feeling beneath. Right. Quiet, please. Let’s listen to them. Quiet. Yes, listen to his little
scrap of philosophy. He’s going to tell you about
the demon of experiment. You’re a cynical idiot,
and I’ve told you so a hundred times. He sneers at me because of this
expression I found to defend myself. Words, words. Yes, words, words. When we’re faced by something
we don’t understand, by a sense of evil that seems as if
he’s going to swallow us. Don’t we all find comfort in a
word that tells us nothing but that cons us? And dulls your sense
of remorse, too. That more than anything. No. Remorse, that’s not true. It’ll take more than words
to dull the sense of remorse in me. Oh, it’s taken a little
money too. Just a little money. The money that he was going to
offer as payment, gentlemen. That’s a filthy trick. Shame on you, daughter. Shame. Shame? No, no shame. Revenge. Oh, I’m desperate, desperate
to live that scene. The room. Over there, a showcase
of coins. There, the divan. There, the mirror. There, the screen. And over there, under the
window, is the little mahogany table with the pale blue
envelope and the money in it. I can see it all
quite clearly. I could pick it up. But you should turn your face
away, gentlemen, because I’m nearly naked. I’m not blushing anymore. I leave that to him. But he was very pale, then. Very pale. Believe me. I don’t understand anymore. I’m not surprised when you’re
attacked like that. Why don’t you put your foot down
and let me have my say before you believe all these
horrible slanders she’s so viciously telling about me. We don’t want to hear
any more of your long-winded fairy stories. I’m not going to tell
any fairy stories. I want to explain
things to him. Oh, yes. I’m sure you do. In your own special way. But isn’t that the cause of
all the trouble, words? We all have a world of things
inside ourselves. And each one of us has his
own private world. How can we understand each other
if the words I use have a sense in value that I expect
them to have but whoever is listening to me thinks I have
a different sense in value because of the private world
he has inside himself too. We think we understand
each other. But we never do. Look, all my pity, all my
compassion for this woman, she sees as ferocious cruelty. But he turned me out
of the house. There, do you hear? I turned her out. She really believed that
I had turned her out. You know how to talk. I don’t. But believe me, sir, after
he married me– I can’t think why, I was
a poor, simple woman. But that was the reason. I married you for
your simplicity. That’s what I loved
in you, believing. No, do you see? She says no. It’s terrifying, sir. Believe me, terrifying. Her deafness, her
mental deafness. Affection for our children,
oh yes. But deaf, mentally deaf. Deaf, sir, to the point
of desperation. Oh, yes. But make him tell you what good
all his cleverness has brought us. Oh, if only we could see in
advance all the harm that can come from the good we
think we are doing. And gradually, that universal
meaning which at first I had vainly sought in the characters
came out of its own accord in the excitement of
their struggles with each other and the producer who
does not understand them. Without wanting to, and without
knowing it, their passion and torment expressed
the passion and torment that for so many years
had plagued me. The deceit involved in
understanding one another, the multiple personality that
everybody possesses, and finally, the tragic conflict
between life, which is always moving and changing, and form,
which fixes it immutable. [SPEAKING ITALIAN] [SPEAKING ITALIAN] At the moment, we’re here on
our own, and the public doesn’t know about us. But tomorrow you will present
us in whatever way you choose, I suppose. But wouldn’t you like to see
it explode into life as it really is? Yes, of course, of course. There’s nothing I’d like more. Then I can use as much
of it as possible. Then persuade my mother
to leave. No! No, don’t do it. Don’t let her do it. But they’re only doing
it for me to watch. Only for me, do you see? I can’t bear it. I can’t bear it. But if it’s happened already,
I can’t see the objection. No! It’s happening now as well. It’s happening all the time. I’m not acting my suffering. Can’t you understand that? I’m alive here and now. But I can never forget that
terrible moment of agony that repeats itself endlessly
and vividly in my mind. For any character, his drama
is his very raison d’etre. But the mother doesn’t
even realize that she is a character. She hasn’t the slightest
suspicion that she is not alive. She is so incapable of stepping
outside her role that she doesn’t even realize
that she has a role. It’s as if she is pure
nature, fixed in the figure of a mother. The pain that she feels is life
itself, which in order to exist has become fixed in our
bodies and little by little kills them. The father and the stepdaughter
are tortured in the same way. But for them it is
a mental torment. For the mother, it is natural. The mind rebels and fights
in order to try and gain something from the situation. Nature weeps. [CRYING] So there you are. I say, old man, who
is mad, you or me? Of course I understand. I say it’s you, and
you say it’s me. You. You are mad. No? It’s me? Oh, very well. It’s me. Have it your own way. Between you and me, we get along
very well, don’t we? But the trouble is that
other People don’t think of you as I do. And that being the case, old
man, what a fix you’re in. As for me, I say that here,
right here and now, right in front of you, I can see myself
with my own eyes, touch myself with my finger. But what are you for
other people? What are you in their eyes? An image– just an image in a glass. They’re all carrying just such
a phantom around inside themselves. They’re all racking their brains
about the phantoms in other people. And they think all that
is quite all right. The butler enters, in time to
catch Laudisi gesticulating at himself in the glass. He wonders if the man is crazy
when he speaks up. [CLEARS THROAT] Ah. Signor Laudisi, if you please,
two ladies calling, sir. And of course you said that
everyone was out. I said that you were in. Why, not at all. I am miles and miles away. Perhaps the fellow they
call Laudisi is here. I don’t understand, sir. Why, you think the Laudisi they
know is the Laudisi I am. I don’t understand, sir. Who are you talking to? Who am I talking to? I thought I was talking
to you. Are you really sure the Laudisi
you are talking to is the Laudisi the ladies
want to see. Why, I think so, sir. They said they were
looking for the brother of Signora Agazzi. Ah, in that case,
you are right. You are not the brother
of Signora Agazzi. No, it’s me. Right you are. Tell them I’m in, and please
show them up, would you? Very good. But we’re both in the first
act of Henry IV. It’s time we changed. [KNOCKING] Yes? Curtain up in half an hour. Have you seen Mr. Pirandello? Which Mr. Pirandello? You know, it’s just not possible
to really live in front of a looking glass. You try looking into the mirror
while you’re crying about what really grieves
you the most. Or while you’re laughing
because you’re wonderfully happy. See? Your tears and laughter
will stop abruptly. As a young man, Pirandello had
left Sicily to study in Bonn, then settled in Rome. But he frequently returned to
his prosperous petty Bourgeois family in Agrigento. In accordance with Sicilian
custom, he entered an arranged marriage with Antonietta
Portulano, the daughter of his father’s business partner. Although he took her to live
with him in Rome, where Pirandello achieved some success
as a short story writer and novelist, their
income still came mainly from the family’s sulfur mine. [SPEAKING ITALIAN] From 1903 to 1919, Pirandello
and the three children lived in Rome, in the claustrophobic
world of his wife’s irrational jealousy and worsening
paranoia. [SPEAKING ITALIAN] He was obviously two
people, one for himself, another for her. And this other person she saw in
him, this sad phantom whose every look, smile, gesture, the
very sound of whose voice, the sense of whose words were
transformed in her own mind, this other man came to life and
lived for her, while he himself no longer existed. In 1919, Pirandello reluctantly
had his wife committed to an asylum. [WHISPERING IN ITALIAN] Once she had left, my house
suddenly seemed empty. She was my nightmare,
but she filled the house with her presence. When I was alone, I wandered
about like a lost soul in those rooms. I feel that my life is
devoid of meaning. And I no longer see any reason
in the acts I perform or in the words I say. And it astonishes me that other
people can move about outside this nightmare
of mine, that they can act and speak. The experience of the previous
15 years had confirmed Pirandello’s vision of the
world, emotional turmoil caused by Antonietta’s committal
released in him the burst of creative energy in
which he wrote many of his most famous plays. He also reworked his 1904 essay
on humor, which contains all the ideas he subsequently
used in his theatre. Humor is far more complex
than comedy. Take Don Quixote, for example. You see, you want to laugh at
the comedy of the character of this poor, deranged man, who
involves everybody and everything in the disguises
of his madness. But the laughter is
not natural, easy. And what hampers it is a feeling
of pity, sadness, or even of admiration. Because however ludicrous, the
poor chap’s adventures are truly heroic. [KNOCKING] Yes? Maestro, the curtain’s going up
in quarter of an hour, and Carlo still doesn’t think
his voice is up to it. Ugh. England and this is June. Are you finished learning
his lines? Yes. Then you must go on. But I still don’t see why that
makes you a humorous writer rather than a comic on. Look, if I see an old lady
with dyed hair, horrible lotions smeared all over, badly
made up, kitted out like a young girl, then
I begin to laugh. Because she is the exact
opposite of what a respectable old lady should be. Now I could stop here at this
superficial comic reaction, but I might perhaps reflect
that this lady isn’t happy being dressed up as
an exotic parrot. Perhaps she is distressed
by it. And maybe the poor thing does
it in order to hold onto a much younger husband. Now I can no longer laugh
the way I did before. And that is the precise
difference between comedy and humor. But that’s absolutely right. That’s wonderful. Why don’t you put that in
your speech tonight? No, no, no. No, I put that in an
essay 20 years ago. No, what they want to know is
why I made that declaration of support to Mussolini
last year. Well, he helped to found this
company, didn’t he? Yes, that’s true. He did. But see, I really
do admire him. I am, in fact, not
political at all. But I think Mussolini gives
Italy a sense of reality. I don’t understand you at all. Now you’re a Fascist. Once you were an anarchist, an
individualist, a Socialist. No, never a Socialist. I am a Sicilian. I can remember what the Sicilian
peasants and sulfur workers are like. How could they possibly believe
in a class struggle in those conditions? [SPEAKING ITALIAN] When a man lives, he lives and
does not see himself in the act of living. Either he is astonished at his
own appearance, or else he turns away his eyes so as not
to see himself, or else in disgust he spits at his image,
or again clenches his fist to break it. In a word, there arises
a crisis. And that crisis is my theatre. Like Six Characters in Search
of an Author, Henry IV is about real and imaginary worlds,
truth and fiction, madness and sanity. The hero, by the way, has
nothing to do with Shakespeare’s English king. He’s an 11th century
Holy Roman Emperor. 20 years before the play begins,
a group of young aristocrats have put on a
historical cavalcade, and our chief character has
gone as Henry IV. The woman he loves
has gone as the Marquesa Matilda of Tuscany. During the procession, Henry
falls from his horse, bangs his head, and wakes
up believing he actually is the emperor. His family decide to humor this
delusion, and being rich, provide him with a medieval
castle and servants disguised as medieval courtiers. Madness fascinated Pirandello. He believed we all contained
every possibility within us. We can all become thieves or
lunatics at any moment. And it’s an idea which has
entered powerfully into modern literature. Whereas most of us assume we
live in a more or less ordered, rational universe,
Pirandello denied it. There was no principle of reason
for him, no God, no meaning in life at all. It was all just a farce. And because the mad, by being
mad, are freed from the illusions of purpose and
rationality, they are closer to reality than we are. At some point before the play
begins, Henry IV has, in fact, recovered his sanity. But he shares Pirandello’s
views, and he gives him a great sense of power and
superiority to go on pretending to be mad when in
fact, he believes, he sees the world more clearly than
the so-called sane. Now, however, a group of old
friends, including Matilda and a doctor, have heard he’s
improving and are coming to see him. In the second act, he
decides to let his retainers in on his secret. I’m not mad anymore. Oh, no. Can’t you see me? We laugh behind the backs
of those who think I am. Now, you’re called– ah, wait a moment. Momo. That’s right, Momo. Well, how splendid everything
is, eh? But then– oh god. Then nothing! And let’s all have a good,
long, enormous laugh! [LAUGHTER] What’s going on? Look me straight in the eyes. I’m not saying it’s
true, don’t worry. Nothing is true. Look me in the eyes. All right. Well, then– You see it? You see yourself. There’s fear in your eyes
now too, because I’m acting like a madman. That’s the proof. That’s the proof. What proof? Your dismay when you think
I’m mad again. And yet, by god, you
know I’m mad. You believe it. You believed it right up until
this very moment, yes or no? Do you see? You feel your dismay turn to
terror like something making the ground give way beneath
your feet, taking away the very air you breathe. Of course, gentlemen, you know
what it’s like to be with a madman, to be with someone who
shakes the foundations, the logic of the whole structure of
everything you built in and around yourselves. So what do you expect? Madmen, and good for them, do
build without logic or with their own feather-brained
logic. They’re unstable. They’re inconstant. Today one way, tomorrow,
god knows how. You stick to things,
they don’t. Instability, inconstancy. You say, this can’t be so. But for them, anything can be. That’s not true, you say. And why? Because it’s not true
for you and you and you and 100,000 others. Oh, my dear fellows, then we’d
better find out what sort of thing is true to these 100,000
who aren’t mad. And what sort of a show they
can put on with their unanimous agreement and
their exquisite logic. When I was a child, I thought
the moon in the puddle was the real thing. So many things seemed true. I believed everything
I was told, and I was happy because– look out, look out! You must cling fiercely to what
seems true to you today and what will seem true to you
tomorrow, even if it’s the opposite of what seemed
true yesterday. Take care that you don’t sink
without a trace like me, trying to grasp this awful
fact which really does drive one mad. But you can be standing beside
someone, looking them in the eyes, as I was looking a certain
person in the eye one day, and you can see you’re a
beggar at a gate through which you’ll never enter. Whoever does go through
it won’t be you ever. You, with the world inside your
head, the world you can see and touch. But someone you don’t even know,
seeing and touching you, in his own impenetrable world. It’s dark in here. Would you like me to go
and get the lamp? The lamp? Do you think I don’t realize you
turn on the electric light every time I turn my back and
take my lamp to bed, here and in the throne room. Of course I pretend
not to see it. Oh. Then would you like me to– No. It would dazzle me. I’d rather have my lamp. It’s here, ready,
behind the door. How am I doing? WEBVTT Pirandello isn’t a simplest. He belongs to no dramatic
school at all. But Henry’s Lamp is, in a
sense, the light of the individual consciousness in
a dark and chaotic world. All Pirandello’s main characters
tend to retreat from an intolerable reality
into private worlds. And here, he’s very much a
writer of his time, responding to the moral and philosophical
vacuum left by the First World War. Henry IV, at the end of the
play, deliberately makes it impossible for himself ever
to escape from his castle. He chooses the real world
of madness over the mad world of reality. He’s freer in so-called
madness to be himself, or so he thinks. The questions Pirandello asks
are all unanswerable. Indeed, we’re not really allowed
by modern philosophy to ask them, though
we all want to. What is the meaning of life? What is truth? How do we know anything for
certain in a world whose governing principle seems
to be relativity? All Pirandello can offer
is the lowliness of the individual, the fragility of
human personality, the impossibility of certainty. It’s a bleak vision, leaving us
giddy on the abyss with no religious or philosophical
comfort. But it’s expressed through
thrilling theatrical images, which make us feel, at least for
a time, that we understand our dilemmas clearer
than before. Pirandello’s transcendental
farce has been enormously influential. It’s the beginning of 20th
century tragedy. Cured? Oh yes, I’m cured. But not so it can be ended
as easily as that. Do you realize that in 20 years,
no one has dared to appear before me dressed like
you and that man there. All right. Let’s drop my disguise to. If I am to come away you. With me? With us? Yes. Where shall we go? To the club in white
tie and tails? Or to the Marquesa’s house,
the two of us, arm in arm. Wherever you like. Surely no one to stay here, all
by yourself, going on with an unhappy carnival joke. It’s incredible, really
incredible. You could have gone on
with it at all once your illness was over. Yes, but you must realize,
falling off my horse and banging my head, I really
did go mad for I don’t know how long. I see. I see, but it was
for a long time. Oh, yes, doctor, a long time. It’s a very interesting case. You must study me. Study me closely. One day, I don’t know how,
but the damage here– I don’t know. It got better. Little by little, I opened
my eyes again. At first, I couldn’t be sure
if I was asleep or awake. And then yes, I was awake. I touched this, then that, and
yes, I could see clearly. Oh, as this man says,
let’s drop the disguise, the nightmare. Let’s open the windows and
breathe life again. Come on, let’s go. Let’s run outside. But to go where? And to do what? This sense we have of life is
like a lantern, which each of us carries within himself. Now this lantern, with its faint
light, reveals to us that we are lost, astray on the
face of the earth, showing us the good and the evil
on every hand. Why not? Our lanterns cast about us a
greater or lesser area of light, beyond which all
is blank darkness. Now, this fearful gloom would
not exist were our lanterns not there to make us
conscious of it. Though we must believe it is a
real darkness, so long as out lights are aglow within us. Well now, imagine that our
lamps are blown out. This fictitious darkness
would engulf us entirely, will it not? After our cloudy day of
illusion, perpetual night. But is it really perpetual
night? Or is it simply that we have
fallen into the arms of essence which has
broken down the insubstantial form of our reason? [APPLAUSE] Author! Author! Author! Author! Author! [APPLAUSE] For a long time, I have been
considered a pessimist. Well, perhaps my words
do reveal an anti-traditional mentality. But I have been misunderstood. My art is free of that pessimism
which causes a lack of faith in my life. And I am not even a nihilist,
since, in the spiritual activity which torments me and
which animates my work, there is an incessant desire
to create. I feel a sense of joy in
creating the ground beneath the feet of my characters. Pirandello’s attempt to create
an Italian national theatre ran into financial difficulties,
and the Art Theatre was to close in 1928. He lost his interest in
Mussolini, and his work fell out of favor in Italy. For the next six years, he
traveled to various cities in Europe and America, until 1934,
when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature and
returned to Rome, where he died in 1936. In his last years, he continued
to write plays, increasingly as vehicles for
Marta Abba, the young actress whose career he encouraged and
who had caused a sensation in many of his players. Whoever understands the
game of light can no longer fool himself. But if you cannot fool yourself,
you can no longer derive any pleasure or
enjoyment from life. And so it goes. My art is full of compassion,
bitter compassion for all those who fool themselves. But this compassion cannot
help but be followed by ferocious derision
of a destiny that condemns man to deception. And this succinctly is the
reason for the bitterness of my art and also my life. The taste of life, the
taste for life. That is never satisfied. That never can be satisfied. Because life, even as we’re in
the very act of living it, is so ravenously hungering after
itself that it never lets itself be fully tasted. The taste for life comes to
us from the past, from the memories that hold us bound. But bound to what? To this folly of ours, to this
mass of vexations, to so many stupid illusions. To so many insipid occupations.

3 thoughts on “Luigi Pirandello: In Search of an Author documentary (1987)

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