The actress Adèle Haenel bristled when requested what drew her to radical artwork and politics. “The time period ‘radical’ is used as a approach to discredit protest discourse,” mentioned Haenel, who’s finest recognized in the USA for the 2019 art-house hit “Portrait of a Woman on Hearth.” That was additionally one of many final function movies she labored on. Since then, she has opted to dramatically alter the course of her life and profession.
Over the previous few years, Haenel, 34, has grow to be one of the vital seen and dedicated faces of the #MeToo motion in France. In Could, she wrote an open letter published in the influential French culture weekly Télérama to clarify her absence from film screens: “I made a decision to politicize my retirement from cinema to denounce the overall complacency of the occupation towards sexual aggressors and extra typically the way in which wherein this sphere collaborates with the mortal, ecocidal, racist order of the world comparable to it’s.”
She has, she instructed me, “a political understanding of the world, and my actions are according to it as a lot as doable. Calling somebody radical is a approach to say ‘She’s hysterical, she’s indignant.’ I favor coherent to radical.”
I mentioned that I had used the phrase in a optimistic method — to recommend daring selections that steered away from the creative mainstream. “I’m not aggravated with you,” Haenel mentioned. “I’m reacting strongly, but it surely’s simply to make myself clear.”
Making herself clear is necessary to Haenel, who has an intense focus and ceaselessly appeared to the aspect as we talked, as if to higher arrange her ideas away from an interlocutor’s gaze. She typically wrote down factors she wished to return again to later — and he or she did return to them.
We have been speaking in a home on the bucolic campus of PS21: Performance Spaces for the 21st Century, in Chatham, N.Y., the place Haenel was showing within the director-choreographer Gisèle Vienne’s present “L’Étang.” The present comes subsequent to New York Metropolis for performances at New York Live Arts, Saturday through Monday, as a part of the Dance Reflections pageant.
By American theatrical requirements, “L’Étang” (“The Pond”) is fairly near radical, although. Based mostly on a brief play by the Swiss-German author Robert Walser, the dance-theater piece locks Haenel and Julie Shanahan, a longtime member of Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal ensemble, in a helix of escalating stress performed in often excruciatingly slow motion, a tempo acquainted to those that noticed Vienne’s hypnotic “Crowd” final 12 months on the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Haenel takes on a number of roles, most notably that of Fritz, an adolescent who fakes suicide to draw his mom’s consideration, and his two siblings; Shanahan performs their dad and mom. The environment is considerably hallucinatory — Vienne has cited David Lynch amongst her influences — but it surely requires consummate precision, each bodily and emotional.
“We labored rather a lot on making an attempt to pierce by the floor of issues, and that’s not one thing you are able to do alone,” Haenel mentioned. “Among the many individuals onstage, we tried to higher perceive what’s implied, to grasp an individual’s emotions. You begin anticipating when an individual goes to cease shifting. That’s a sort of communication I really feel very strongly with Julie. We don’t want to speak about it endlessly; I simply really feel how lengthy she’s going to take to do one thing.”
For Vienne, effort is an integral a part of the method. “What I do could be very technical from a choreographic and interpretive standpoint,” she mentioned in Chatham. “This virtuosity is the results of a protracted bodily and theoretical coaching — sociology, philosophy and politics are necessary to understanding what we’re within the strategy of constructing, and the formal selections we make as we create the piece.”
This rigor and dedication go well with Haenel, as she passionately pursues a path wherein creative targets are intertwined with politics and life, a dedication that coalesces in her work with Vienne.
The 2 met in 2018, after they have been on the admissions committee for the Nationwide Theater of Brittany’s appearing faculty. Haenel participated in a workshop with potential college students led by Vienne. “I beloved it,” she mentioned. “The improvisation was associated to her present ‘Crowd’ and concerned growing gradual movement as a brand new sense, like seeing or listening to, that may assist you to stay or expertise issues in a different way.”
The pair additional explored that theme in “L’Étang,” which turned their first official collaboration and, after a Covid 19-imposed delay, premiered in 2021. Over the course of our dialog, Haenel usually circled again to what she known as de-hierarchization. Within the present, for instance, phrases, motion, music, sound and lighting all contribute to speaking info, emotions and feelings. This undermines the normal place of textual content on the prime of the theatrical pyramid, and makes us rethink what carries which means onstage.
And “L’Étang” subverts the standard hyperlink between the performers’ physique language and the way in which textual content is delivered — particularly for the reason that voices are sometimes electronically distorted. (Adrien Michel did the delicate sound design.)
“It’s in regards to the friction between textual content and subtext,” Haenel mentioned. She introduced up an particularly intense scene wherein she and Shanahan are nose to nose. They barely transfer, however the impact is certainly one of terrifying brutality. “Julie truly speaks very calmly, however for us it’s a loopy scene of aggression as a result of there’s a negation of the physique language,” Haenel mentioned, including that one thing they explored with Vienne was dissociation. “We’ve achieved a stage the place we will have a physique that appears nearly stoned with a speeded-up voice.”
The impression is meant to be as a lot political as it’s aesthetic. “On the coronary heart of ‘L’Étang’ is the problem of violence,” Haenel mentioned, “and this violence just isn’t about saying powerful issues, however about turning another person’s speech into silence.”
Haenel and Vienne’s partnership has bloomed since 2018. In August, they premiered a brand new present, “Extra Life,” additionally starring Theo Livesey and Katia Petrowick, on the prestigious Ruhrtriennale pageant in Germany. They’re additionally concerned with public readings of labor by Monique Wittig, the lesbian thinker and activist who died in 2003 and has been having fun with a revival in France over the previous few years. Whereas in New York for “L’Étang,” Haenel is taking part in a Wittig occasion, conceived in collaboration with Vienne, on the Albertine bookstore on Wednesday.
“Speaking about Monique Wittig is a political act of energetic reminiscence creation,” mentioned Haenel, who’s making an attempt to get new English translations of Wittig’s work off the bottom. “I’d love to assist her be learn once more in the USA, to be studied extra.”
Digging deep with Vienne and championing Wittig are of a chunk for Haenel. “I’ve at all times tried to interact in a pondering course of,” she mentioned. “The thought just isn’t a lot to grow to be higher, however to not grow to be calcified in an antiquated relationship to the world. What’s at stake just isn’t whether or not that relationship is more true or not — I discover the concept of a standards of fact super-problematic — however whether or not it’s extra alive or not. At the least for me.”