“With one foot in the apocalypse”: Ben Becker in an interview with ntv.de
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Ben Becker is responsible for reading the original narration of Francis Ford Coppolas cinematic masterpiece”Apocalypse Now” simply the ideal cast – not only because he has the name of author Joseph Conrad tattooed on his skin, but also because he seems to know more about the journey into the “heart of darkness” than anyone else. In the original story, which inspired Coppola’s multiple Oscar-winning film about the war in Vietnam, the English captain Marlow joins the steamer of a Belgian trading company in Congo. His mission: up the Black River to the heart of the African continent, where the commercial agent Kurtz has created his own kingdom in which he plays God. However, Becker’s “Apocalypse” not only accuses English colonialism and racism at the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, but also the entire European world, which since the 15th century has acquired wealth and influence at the cost of exploitation, war, violence and flee. Ben Becker talks to ntv.de about his special, expressive interpretation.
ntv.de: Your lecture – “The Apocalypse” is more relevant than ever. Isn’t that frustrating? That humanity seems to learn nothing. Of no century, of no previous war, of no other catastrophe…
Ben Becker: It’s very frustrating, absolutely. It’s not just Europe, it’s apocalyptic all over the world. The apocalypse is worldwide. This is sad and hurts me. She comes to our house every day now. At ntv.de you know what that means. 24/7 coverage from anywhere in the world, you can’t resist anymore. The floods in Pakistan are flooding the living room, as is the war and famine. If I don’t like it, I can set another program, but the information will reach me sooner or later. Information in this form did not previously exist. Which doesn’t mean these disasters didn’t happen. It raises so many questions…
Do you find this type of reporting bad, annoying or necessary?
I sometimes wonder how far I can go. How far that can go in a skull. I am already concerned about the youth, as a father of a daughter I wonder to what extent young people are inhibited and influenced by it. Whether it frightens, takes away joy or delights in the beauty of life that is really given to us. The rug is being pulled from under the feet of an entire generation.
Do you give your child a certain “Carpe Diem” spirit, but don’t put it off until “later”?
I think the kids do that themselves. I don’t think Dad should come and say, “Have fun!” I can help fund the fun (laughs) and of course the advice to get out and about, go and leave them alone.
You read from Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, it says: Every man has his breaking point. When did you reach that point?
I don’t know. The sentence is from Joseph Conrad. I believe that everyone has been or will get close to their personal breaking point at least once. I don’t know what happens when you cross it. Fortunately, that has never happened to me, even though I have often come close. But somehow I always got the curve. I don’t know how broken you are, how much you can find any justification to continue. Because if you’ve been through that, the breaking point, that also means it’s worn you down quite a bit.
You can feel this inner conflict in your art…
Yes, I play with it, I deal with it and I like to play with fire. My real father, my father, not Otto Sander, once told me I would be walking a tightrope, that’s what makes me so interesting. But it is also a dangerous thing. To this day I managed – hey, hey, hey – not to fall. I had to catch myself every now and then, but I always got up again. This coming up gives me great pleasure, because there is also a fascination in it. Not only for me as an artist, but also for the viewers and anyone who wants to experience my art. What will finally start again after such a long time.
Let’s hope it stays that way…
Let’s send Mr. Lauterbach and Mr. Lindner to a mussel bar on Sylt, where they can be happy.
The Apocalypse – fascinated and shocked. Are we in it, or are we already in the midst of the apocalypse of our time?
We already have a foot in it. That’s shocking. That the images you have of it now come true. I’m kind of a communist christian – at one point I really got into a lot with the bible, although actually I come from a left-wing family and was more into philosophy. But somehow everything seems to be coming true now, in a terrifying way. As an artist I can only perceive this in my childishly naive way and try to process it artistically and offer it to society or the theater audience. And to give my processing to the paying educated classes. I do nothing but offer an opportunity for interpretation. Otherwise I would have ended up in politics. And luckily I’m not (laughs).
They tend to question things…
Exactly, and for the way I doubt that, in the case of “Apocalypse” the template, the literary text, is enough for me. I don’t have to burn flags on stage or spread my own personal thoughts. Joseph Conrad’s literary model is strong enough. Twenty years ago I read like a little boy reads adventure novels. I could not have foreseen that I would meet one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. I only realized that later.
What does the viewer get when he or she comes to your performance on a subject that is more strenuous than relaxing?
Difficult question. Why am I confronting people with this evil reality, which is already happening in real life? For starters, as an artist and as someone who is so preoccupied with my observations, I feel compelled to bring this to the stage. And on the other hand, something can come out of it that is interesting, that makes us happy, that helps us move forward. But what I see out there is mostly bullshit, just don’t think and stay away from the confrontation. I can understand that to some extent, but it can’t be my job to go along with that.
Do you feel pressure?
No, but sometimes I do wonder: why am I making it so difficult for myself?
It fascinates me, it challenges me. I like to take my audience on the path of asking questions.
Sabine Oelmann spoke with Ben Becker
Dates 2022: Start is on October 11. at the Prinzregententheater in Munich, then it continues on 8.11. in Karlsruhe via Coburg, Kassel, Hanover, Berlin, Bad Reichenhall, Jena, Nuremberg, Ingolstadt, Hamburg. 2023 Becker starts on January 5. in Osnabrück and read on until 25.2. in Potsdam.