With not only a film retrospective but an art exhibition at the BFI no-one can have missed that French Oscar winner Juliette Binoche is in town and has trained for 2 years to collaborate on this dance piece with innovative Brit Bangladeshi dancer and choreographer Akram Khan. Leave it there. Interviews and articles can only infuriate. Even without the credit crunch and a soggy Summer it would be hard to feel for Binoche’s terror, “It has to be brave … I have to overcome a lot of fears, being out of breath, of losing balance.” And then there is the title, don’t ask about the title. “It’s about questions. Do we dare?” “If we had to say one word we would choose the word ‘dare’.” And I, reading the reams of self-regarding Left Bank/cultural angst would choose one sentence, “How very dare they?”
However, I liked it. An exploration, through words, music, and dance, of love, of loving, of a couple, it has moments of eloquence. Laughing or wincing these were moments of audience reocognition. Perhaps best of all was the opening sequence where Binoche’s teenage self falls in love with the movies and, thus, with a man in the cinema. As she yearns in a gauche, essentially female way “I fell in love with the back of your head, I want to be with you, to live together, maybe?” Akram’s fluid rapidity physically describes the awakening of her maturity, of her strength of desire. And their classic first morning together is very funny.
Whilst technically superb Khan never owns his first acting role. His monologue, an improbably extreme experience in a madrassa, does not fully engage. Binoche’s strength is not in her dancing, though excellent, but in her constant habitation of the character from vulnerable teenager to ferocious lover. Expression floods her whole frame and reaches out to us; something you just can’t train for.
With a vital wall Anish Kapoor makes a deceptively simple set that is stunningly lit by Michael Hulls and Philip Shepphard’s fusion soundtrack is excellent; ebbing and flowing but never intrusive but shadowing the dancing tides of submission, dominance, violence and affection. Je ne sais pas, pourquoi?
- Triona Adams