Feb 19, 2015

Marat Sade: We Want a Revolution

Want to see a man sitting naked in a bathtub for 2 hours?

I thought so.

You'll have to see Marat/Sade, a 1964 play by Peter Weiss set in the Charenton Asylum in France in 1808, where the inmates, led by the Marquis de Sade, are putting on a play about the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat.

Marat was a radical journalist, a vocal supporter of the Revolution.  He was assassinated on July 13, 1793 while taking a medicinal bath for a mysterious skin condition.  Since then, he has become an icon for revolutionaries.

He's the subject of the famous painting The Death of Marat, by Jacques-Louis David.

Back to the play: in 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte has become the Emperor of France.  The asylum director, Coulmier, supports the new administration, but the inmates, led by the Marquis de Sade, believe that no political regime effects real change.

We've got new generals our leaders are new
They sit and they argue and all that they do
Is sell their own colleagues and ride upon their backs
And jail them and break them and give them all the axe

It all sounds hyper-political, and in fact Marat/Sade was understood as an indictment of the Vietnam War, Communism, and all sorts of local politics. And for gay liberation:

We want our rights and we don't care how
We want our revolution now

The film version (1967) features Patrick Magee as the Marquis de Sade and Ian Richardson as Marat.

Sade, by the way, wrote the 100 Days of Sodom, about libertines trying all of the sexual acts they could think of.