By Corina Copp in the May-June 2020 Issue
Susan Sontag’s Duet for Cannibals was filmed in Stockholm in 1968 on commission from a Swedish film studio. The story concerns two couples enamored with their own game-playing: middle-aged professor and purported German revolutionary Dr. Bauer and his Italian wife, Francesca, entreat young student Tomas to catalogue (or at least not burn) Bauer’s important papers. The busywork job cloaks Bauer’s real desire to inch Tomas closer to Francesca, while Tomas’s girlfriend Ingrid suffers from his gradual removal from their messy one-room apartment—and from authentic love. Sontag insisted that one couple (Tomas and Ingrid) resemble real people and the other (Francesca and Bauer), play-actors. Is a deflated, cheerful nihilism on display? Or is it instead a dragging of the Situationists, or similar leftist intellectuals, as recognizably bourgeois and blithely inept at anything but the games of amour and power?
Corina Copp is the translator of Chantal Akerman's My Mother Laughs (The Song Cave, 2019), and Night Lobby (e-flux, forthcoming); and the author of The Green Ray (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015) and the ongoing play, The Whole Tragedy of the Inability to Love (Artists Space, Home Alone 2, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, NYC PRELUDE Festival, Dixon Place), among other performance-scripts and chapbooks.