Stage show

Five films that inspired Ernest Rareberrg to bring ballet, opera and theatre to small venues
By Alex James Taylor | Music | 30 August 2023
This article is part of Playlists – Tunes to live by

“These five films gave me insight on what colours should look like,” US musician Ernest Rareberrg tells us of his film list curated specially for HERO. “[These five films show how] emotions should feel like, how to be a viewer and a participant, and how to have a fearless pursuit of the truth within the imagination.”

Rareberrg builds worlds. Worlds that surround and submerge, that reimagine and elevate our own. Often, the framework for these sonic–visual works are drawn from mediums traditionally perceived as ‘high art’ – ballet, opera, theatre and classical artworks. Reframing these references, Rareberrg compares his approach to Robin Hood; sharing riches amongst the masses.

Live, these worlds enter our own. Acknowledging the theatre of performance, each Rareberrg show is unique to the moment it exists in. Conceived with director Sheheryar, the duo build a singular visual language. There are actors, monologues, a trio of monks suddenly walk on stage, and then a boxer who begins to shadow box.

”When coming up with ideas we aim to forget everything we know about concerts,” Rareberrg says, “mostly including our previous shows, while still approaching things in a pragmatic way. We work with who’s available and what’s available, and find what the form is each night. This leads to the shows being different, which is part of the magic. During the show, whatever happens on the stage and within the crowd is a representation of the physical manifestation of sound, we present how we see the songs to others, which a lot of the time leaves me vulnerable and open; but it gives others a chance to live in the fluctuating world of the songs.”

Here, Ernest Rareberrg curates a film playlist of surrealist, rich narratives that inspire his own performances.

Photography by Yulissa Benitez

The Red Shoes by Emeric Pressburger & Michael Powell
“I was trying to rent this from the library and nothing ever showed up. I would cancel the hold after months and rent it again and still nothing. I finally decided to buy the Blu-ray that year and I was nervous to watch it because I really admired the work of Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger and Jack Cardiff. A year later I finally gained enough courage to do so, and right after, I had a burst of immediate inspiration, I ended up making a score called ballet is religion. The beautiful technicolor images, the way they filmed the ballet, the chemistry between Moira Shearer and Anton Walbrook, the heartbreaking ending, I’ve been searching to recapture that feeling ever since.”

All That Jazz by Bob Fosse
“In this semi-autobiographical film directed by Bob Fosse, Roy Scheider plays a hard-working, promiscuous, alcoholic, choreographer/director. This was very influential, I never saw a story told that way. The hospital hallucination, the scene at the very beginning and the scene at the end appealed to me in a major way, I remember constantly drawing stage designs right after seeing this. The first stage design I drew was called the city of madness. Sheheryar (the director of most of the shows I do in New York) and I still bring up this film and the red shoes constantly.”

The Kid by Charlie Chaplin
“The dream sequence. Surrealism. Angels dealing with sin, lust, jealousy. The story being told in silent film format. This film had me asking the question, “How can I learn to tell stories that grand and majestic without dialogue?”

And the Ship Sails On by Frederico Fellini
“The 17th complete feature film by the great master Fellini, filmed as if it was a grand opera. I saw this in 35mm and the feeling of awe clenched my stomach in the theatre. I vowed that someday I’d be involved in making an opera.”

Simon of the Desert by Luis Buñuel
“In this film shot by Buñuel, Simon (played by Claudio Brook) stands on top of a stone column in the middle of the desert and prays for six years, six weeks and six days. Simon has the ability to perform miracles in God’s name, and yet he’s still plagued by ambiguity. The devil attempts to get Simon to come down off the stone column countless times throughout the film. The unforeseen ending didn’t sit well with me the first time, but as I sat with it I gained a new appreciation for the film as a whole. Before seeing the film I was becoming interested in theology, and the images in this film definitely added to that curiosity.”

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