A behind-the-scenes look at The Public Theater's production of Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage" that examines the playwright's life and ideas.

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A behind-the-scenes look at The Public Theater's production of Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage" that examines the playwright's life and ideas.

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Documentary on Life and Work of Bertold Brecht
9 May 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I saw this on Sat., May 3, 2008, at the AMC VII as a part of the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. I attended the screening because I had seen the Public Theatre's production of Brecht's "Mother Courage and Her Children," and because I continue to want to understand how Meryl Streep constructs her characters and how she performs. I am also ignorant of the significance of Bertold Brecht, and needed to get a fuller picture of his life and work.

So, with that rather severe academic assignment to myself, off I went on a dreary chilly late morning to see this movie.

The movie is strong, strong, good, good. It is a lesson in politics; a summary of the life of Brecht; and a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at a staged production of the play "Mother Courage and Her Children." The significance of the two world wars on Brecht's life is clearly the basis of the Play "Mother Courage," but the opportunity to understand why Meryl Streep (lead in the play), George Woolf (director), Oscar Eustis (director of the Public Theatre), and Tony Kushner (playwright and translator of the play) wanted - needed - to bring the play to the stage refreshed my memory of the cycle of horrors of war and abuse of authority that our present office holders are responsible for. The play is anti-war, even espousing a communistic view of the world, understandable for its time and for Brecht's experiences; but the play produced in 2006, in the midst of a new war is a scream for an end to war.

Best interviews are with an aging man who worked with Brecht in Germany. His experience in an allied prison camp in the UK during the war, and his experiences working with Brecht on the first production of "Mother Courage" in Berlin in 1949, help to bring the 59 years closer to our times.

The movie is standard in many ways containing interviews, images, historic footage, and moments at relevant locations, but is an excellent introduction to the huge tragedy of war and to the relevance of art in civic life.

SEE THEATRE ON THE STAGE! it is alive, as Dr. Frankenstein would say.

PS. Seeing Meryl Streep sweating it out on stage two summers ago in Central Park, and especially watching her one on one against Austin Pendleton as the priest, was marvelous. To think Streep did the show for - what - 4 weeks running - is amazing.


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