Marcel Marceau on Life and Art

It took me a little longer than I hoped to fulfil my promise, but here I am finally with the English translation of the interview with Marcel Marceau. I will not say anything more in this introduction, and as you read on you will probably agree with me that no words are necessary here.

This is not a mystery. How to do it? Well, the art of mime is that one needs a great concentration, one needs to have a vision of what to show; and one also needs emotion, the laughter, the comical, but not a caricature because when it is too much, it is too much. This is why one needs to learn to restrain oneself and to communicate the essential.

I was a picture, therefore I am an artist who often paints pantomimes.

When I was six years old I had a very profound look, but it wasn’t a caricature, I have always had this depth. Chaplin was very deep, and his profundity touched me when I was little.

I think it is true that an artist remains a child within himself, but when he has had a really great experience in life, he changes, too.

When it was the Second World War, I didn’t yet practise my art. I began to practise it. I started acting when Germany was occupied, and the war was over. Theatre is impossible during the war, for it is a terrible theatre. But I didn’t have yet the knowledge I have now. I was more naive, even if I had seen the unhappiness of life I was still naive, I didn’t have this experience, the experience of terror, hoping all the time that I wasn’t killed. And today when I watch the documentaries about the war that I myself lived through, I say: my God, what a courage they ever had being so young! But I don’t have this courage any longer because I want no more wars, I hate the war, and this is what I am trying to show in my manner at the theatre.

Often the young don’t like the old, it’s like “the old are nothing any longer”, it’s the youth, the future that counts. But they will grow very old one day, too, and so I am instilling the respect to their parents. The respect to a grandfather, a grandmother, the respect to the old, the respect to those who taught us.

I have even written a book on this subject: “The memoirs of a mime who let out a scream of silence”. And even now I am trying to write, in part about the painting, in part about the family. From time to time I visit my children who have grown up now, and I love playing chess. But sometimes I feel a great sadness when I say: what will happen if our world does not evolve so badly? Will one day the eternal piece really have arrived?

Translated from French © Julia Shuvalova 2007


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