Watching John Malkovich perform live is a rare privilege; it’s even more extraordinary to be given the chance to chat with the legendary American actor. Yesterday, City Savvy Luxembourg was lucky enough to experience both.
“Just Call Me God” starring Mr Malkovich, wowed the audience last night and evidenced the incredible caliber of shows being brought to Luxembourg by the Philharmonie.
“Just Call Me God” follows the final hour of Satur Diman Cha, the fictitious and blood-thirsty Dictator of the fictitious Country of Circassia. Diman Cha is one of the last great Dictators of the World, and he is being chased by international military troops; the manhunt ends in his underground bunker, decorated as a great opera theatre where the Dictator is planning to celebrate his 25 years in power alone- as his country has been emptied by political purges and mass deportations.
The action unfolds when an organ-playing field chaplain and a journalist (Sophie von Kessel, whose great performance is worth a mention), are the last people standing. They are left alone after the Dictator kills the rest of their crew. The two are forced to take part to the impromptu celebration of Satur Diman Cha’s fading power; accompanied by brilliant bellowing pipe music- as one could have expected from a show taking place at the Philharmonie.
On one of those bright, sunny afternoons the Grand-Duchy can offer at this time of the year, Mr. Malkovich hinted at what he thinks about the world in its current climate, Europe, and the direction in which we are all heading.
“What is power?” is one of the key questions expressed by Diman Cha on stage. The idea of defining power is also one of the main questions we all find ourselves currently asking considering the incertitude created by recent political shifts across the globe. ‘You know, we played in Amsterdam the night of their recent elections’ – said Mr. Malkovich to City Savvy – ‘and things are just different in different Countries with different histories; this play does not tell people how to vote, it does not tell them what to think, everyone will get his own ideas out of it; this is just a very overtly political play.’
‘Working on the music of this play has been a life-changing experience: it is the third time I’ve worked with this crew and Martin Haselböck, the musical director of the play and organ player on scene, has done a great job selecting music that could match the meaning of the text; and the organ he uses to play it is great, it is an instrumental expression of power in itself.’ The haunting music selection spans from original music composed to Bach, Wagner and Liszt.
Satur Diman Cha is a dictator who foresees a segregation between people and barriers as the future of the world. This notion isn’t something that matches the spirit and the current situation of Luxembourg. Our city is proving to be an extraordinarily open and welcoming country which has turned its multi-cultural society into a proper resource.
We also asked Mr. Malkovich what he thinks of this model and whether it could be successful or not. We referenced one of his old movies, “A talking picture” by Manoel de Oliveira, in which the passengers of a cruise ship have great time and interact with one another, all the while speaking their own language as well as representing their own culture. In the end of the movie, the boat ends up sinking. We posed the question of whether or not the multi-cultural society a viable model or will we all sink at the end of the journey?
‘It is a great question”, the actor said, “but we also have to define what multiculturalism means: culture in itself is not a word, what is culture today might not be perceived as such tomorrow, and different cultures today might turn into one culture in the future.’
‘The idea is to propose a cultural model people find easy to identify themselves with and abide by, but what if they decide not to? The idea of integration in the Western world is based on the concept of living together peacefully, but as we can all see it is now being challenged by a general uprising across the Continent and changes are taking place in many countries such as the UK, France, Hungary, possibly Italy – just think of Italy: it is a multi-cultural country by definition, it was created by the unification of many different Countries, and even there problems are surfacing; I do not think there is only one way to look at these problems and answer these questions.’
We weren’t able to right the world’s wrongs in our conversation with Mr Malkovich, but at least we didn’t add to them and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We are grateful to the Philharmonie for bringing such brilliant talent to Luxembourg. We greatly anticipate the year to come at one of Luxembourg’s most remarkable venues and encourage you to watch this space!