By Lily Kelting
Performance is supposed to be about liveness. TV is "rawest" live, sports are shown live, and theater has been selling liveness for millennia. This ethos rubs off even on movies and TV; there is an ongoing tension between the "living" work of the actors and the mechanical, “off-stage” work of post-production animators. Theater scholar Marvin Carlson writes, “One of the universals of performance is its ghostliness, its sense of return, the uncanny but inescapable impression that we are seeing what we saw before.” Performance, Carlson muses, is haunted.
Marvin Carlson, of course, wasn’t really talking about ghosts -- he’s talking about the way that theater doubles life, presenting cultural and historical forces a second time. But what about ghosts? The teaser trailer for the Hunger Games franchise’s third installment, Mockingjay: Part I, begins with a voiceover from Philip Seymour Hoffman. An unmistakable throaty growl, “Listen to me...” And yes, we’re listening. This is the first glimpse of the film that viewers have been offered. “The Capitol” has been waging a very clever PR campaign, where mock-propaganda from the dystopia has been released in lieu of traditional trailers.
If theater is seeing what we have seen before, then isn't the movie trailer a way to see what we are about to see? After being tantalized by the glossy fashion spreads as if we, too, were citizens of Panem, the trailer speaks to us as an audience. It says: Come see this movie, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, and Jennifer Lawrence! It does feel uncanny to look forward to an actor’s final film, to hear a voice that you realize is speaking from beyond the grave.