Had Anton Chekhov lived now, he would have written for television. Not drama, and certainly not film. Indeed, innovative as the great Russian playwright was during his short life (1860-1904), he would now have done something with selfie sticks and contact microphones. The result would probably have been something like what Brazilian artist Christiane Jatahy has now created. She took the text of Chekhov's most intimate play 'Three Sisters' (1901) and turned it into a very special thing. Or rather, two very special things. A film and a 'making of', largely recorded live and simultaneously, but partly not. And that, therefore, as an audience, you will first watch the film, and then the 'Making of', or vice versa, and that this produces completely different experiences.
I myself saw the film first. Witnessed in that way a dense, to very densely filmed cartoon with references to Chekhov. Three young women, each individually followed by invisible cameramen. And us, as friends, lovers, strangers addressed through the lens. All very fragmentary, and because it is all so close to the skin, also sensual and oppressive. That the three ladies, akin in age and joie de vivre to Chekhov's stray officers' daughters, would never go to Moscow is as clear as the web of worries, intrigues and frustrations in which they are trapped.
After an ample interval, I saw the stage section, the 'making of'. Here everything started light and cheerful. The birthday party that Chekhov connoisseurs recognise from the original play, but fresh and modernly elaborated. The three ladies keep up the gaiety for a long time, but we, the spectators who first saw the film, are on our guard, because we know what's cooking and bubbling underneath. And now we also see those cameramen, boys actually still, who were sometimes visible as shadows in the film version, but play a more prominent role here.
It is these colourless men who capture, follow and sometimes direct the action, making it increasingly difficult for the flamboyant women to remain flamboyant. It becomes technical, but therefore increasingly poignant, the harder they try on stage to keep the mood up.
The result is ultimately a bit mixed. In both the film and the theatre side of the show, a lot keeps you from total immersion in the story. Not that that is and requirement for a good experience, but still. I caught myself watching much more technical than I liked. It was difficult to connect with the three sisters, despite the beautiful Portuguese they spoke and the extraordinarily disarming and forthcoming manner in which they played.
But perhaps that was precisely the beauty of it. Because what remained, after watching it twice for an hour and a half, was an image of lonely and helpless women, in a world where men were invisible but all-important. And that is quite impressive again.