(Peter Brook, UK 1967, 116 min., 35mm)
After Bedlam. During the 19th century, fashionable theatergoers would attend ostensibly therapeutic stage performances by mental asylum inmates. The film opens on July 19, 1809, with Monsieur Coubnier (Clifford Rose), the officious head of the Charenton asylum, introducing that night’s show—a drama about the assassination of French Revolutionary War firebrand Jean-Paul Marat, written by that institution’s most notorious resident, the Marquis de Sade (Patrick Magee). The play begins conventionally enough, considering that the lead actress (Glenda Jackson) has narcolepsy, the actor playing Marat (Ian Richardson) has paranoia, and another actor, a sex maniac with very pressing urges, is kept in chains. But the work soon evolves into a dialogue between Marat and De Sade. Though both men were early supporters of the Revolution, their ideas of the shape of the movement took very different courses. Adapted from his own Royal Shakespeare Company production of Peter Weiss’s play titled The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates at Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, Peter Brook directs this fascinating look into revolution, power, and human frailty.