Synopsis/Director's Statement    Review

Directed by
Leslie Dektor

Executive Producer
Faith Dektor




Synopsis/Director's Statement

In Do You Want the Elephant Music, subjects are looking, always looking. Never are we shown what it is they are looking at. The film seems to be about an elsewhere. Not the spectacle that is the circus. Expectations of the circus and its attendant spectacles are not met.

Even the subjects of the film rarely occupy center stage. What is it that lies always outside or beyond the ring? We are being asked to look elsewhere.

The ring is the character that allows so many people to manifest themselves. The ring is a kind of mirror to our desires, to ourselves. The film is not about the ring and its endless delivery of spectacle, but about us, the people looking.

A circus performer says, "Everybody looks for me," defying our expectations of circus spectacle. We are supposed to look at him, at his tricks; that's the deal we struck between spectator and spectacle. We're not supposed to look for the performer. He's supposed to be there. We are thrust into a kind of absence, a sense that the spectacle, the thing to look at, is always somewhere else. The bright lights and the music and the glitter are there to soften this truth, to hide it.

When we do get spectacle, we are not allowed to passively enjoy for we are told that something even more dramatic is happening off-screen. As the strong man thrusts the knives through his cheeks, he tells us that the thing that has his attention is his mother, crying. He sees her seeing him like this. She becomes the spectacle, but she's not even there for us to see.

The strong man tells us that he must "make me hard, hard up before I put the knives in." A kindly man, a friendly man, is how he describes himself, "They think I'm a monster." In the ring, the audience sees what it wants to see, a monster. The kindly man that takes knives in his cheeks is elsewhere.

The dwarf says, "When they see me, I'm walking down the street. They make jokes." He tells us he used to get hurt before but not anymore. The people on the street aren't looking at him--not the real him, the clown. He is Bobo. In the ring he has made his size a spectacle, in this ring he's in charge of our laughs. "I'd rather be like I am than other people," he will never quite be like others. Only in the ring can he rise above us all.

The lion tamer diverts our attention away from the spectacle. We are told of an immanent threat in the handling of these beasts. But this sense of danger is never in evidence in the ring. The danger seems to be taking place outside the ring, in the lion tamer's own home. We see a wife that is restless, fearful and unhappy with her husband's work. Will she leave him? The real threat is elsewhere.

Even the audience has a role. "Don't blame them for people who haven't come." Audience is as much about the ones who haven't shown up as the ones who have. The fewer people in the audience, the more performers must fill the ring with the illusion of presence, of spectacle.

They don't know who I am behind the makeup, asserts another clown. Nor is the audience ever likely to. We fill in the absence with our own desires, with our own visions, imaginations. The ring, the makeup, and the looking-glass in which the performers daily apply their faces--they are all just surfaces for the "audience to manifest themselves."

Our gaze is directed away from the ring to its periphery, to the moments in-between shows, to the setting up and pulling down of the main event. The spectacle swells in proportion, suggested but never shown.

What's at stake? Nothing less that humanity, the revealing to us and reminding us of the most fundamental fear we all share--that of being discovered for who we are, always already less than the swelled spectacle of who we should be.

Life is remembered as a series of spectacles, but life is lived in moments in-between. So much easier to perform life in the bright lights of spectacle than live it in the moments when no one's watching. It's in those moments that we show our real face to the world.

Review by the BMPA Founders



Photography by Maureen