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November 23, 2012
HollywoodJesus.com
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Darrel Manson
Gottfried Helnwein and the Dreaming Child (2012) | Review
Disturbing Art
Helnwein's vision of how to visually present this opera has created a world that many may find hard to look at. I expect that is exactly his goal. It should be hard to look at the way children are so easily discarded or forgotten. The opera, the art, and the film all serve to remind us not only of the deep sin of the Holocaust, but of the many ways such crimes against children continue day by day. We may want to turn away, but to ignore the problem is to allow it to grow.
n 2010 the Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv performed a new opera, The Child Dreams. They hired Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein to create the sets and costumes. Helnwein was a bold choice because his art focuses on children, especially injured and bandaged children. His art is at once beautiful and deeply disturbing. But that is exactly the kind of effect the story of the opera called for. Gottfried Helnwein and the Dreaming Child documents the process of melding his art with the opera. In some ways the film is like a behind-the-scenes "making of" film, but there are issues that take us much deeper into thinking about the world and the darkness that often envelops it.
The opera, and by consequence much of the film, focuses on childhood as seen in a post-Holocaust world. The story that makes up the opera is not specifically about the Holocaust, because it wants to have a more universal application. The opera seeks to make viewers consider the way the innocence of children continues to be betrayed in the world around us. Children are powerless and are often abused and misused. They are exploited—sometimes sexually, physically, and even financially. We long to think of children as innocent, but in a world that has gassed them and continues to find new ways to destroy their spirits, do we have the luxury of being able to think that childhood is so safe and secure?
Helnwein's vision of how to visually present this opera has created a world that many may find hard to look at. I expect that is exactly his goal. It should be hard to look at the way children are so easily discarded or forgotten. Looking at some of the scenes from the opera (and the film only shows a few brief pieces from the actual performances) can be very compelling in that you are so drawn in that you cannot avert your eyes. At the same time the visual experience is utterly repellant in its themes built around violence against children. This is the kind of art that is meant to move us, even if we would just as soon forget.
The opera, the art, and the film all serve to remind us not only of the deep sin of the Holocaust, but of the many ways such crimes against children continue day by day. We may want to turn away, but to ignore the problem is to allow it to grow.
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