The Man Who Fed Butterflies
3 stars ***
SOMETIMES, DURING THE EDINBURGH FESTIVAL, an idea emerges with such a strange persistence, from so many different sources, that it’s difficult not to believe that it arises from some kind of collective unconscious. This year, the recurring idea has had something to do with the moment of death, and with the concept that in that moment, we are somehow more alive, and more able to resolve our lives, than at any other time; and that idea is also the driving force behind The Man Who Fed Butterflies, the second of the two shows presented at the King’s this week by Juan Carlos Zagal’s extraordinary Teatro Cinema of Chile.
It has to be said that this second show in Zagal’s planned trilogy of cinema-theatre does not match the intensity of the first, Sin Sangre. Its story is less focussed, less politically charged, and more cumbersomely playful. The filmic style it references has more to do with sentimental magic realism, and the kitsch battle scenes of computer-generated fantasy-fiction, than with the classic elegance of film noir; its plot contains at least four slightly chaotic strands, including an irritatingly self-referential one about a film-maker trying to make an epic fantasy-movie.
Yet still, Zagal’s strange, poignant mixture of film imagery and live action exerts a strong pull on the imagination, as he explores the story of an old man in Santiago who believes he is the last link to an ancient people who, by feeding butterflies, forged a connection with the most powerful life-forces in the universe. There’s also the story of the film-maker and his ex-girlfriend, who has lain in a coma for eight years after being shot during a student demonstration, and of a mediaeval knight and his lady, commemorated in a statue in the city. And in the end, they all combine in a memorable rush of filmic mysticism; with the hint of a miracle for the living, as the old man finds his death, at last.
Until 4 September