The Infernal Comedy

The Infernal Comedy: Confesions of a serial killer is a “Drama for one actor, two singers and orchestra” based around the story of real-life serial killer Jack Unterweger. It features John Malkovich, Laura Aikin, Aleksandra Zamojka and the Wiener Akademie under Martin Haselböck. It was written and directed by Michael Sturminger and filmed in front of a live audience in Vienna’s Kronacher Theater in 2009. It’s a really creepy piece in which Malkovich plays the dead Unterweger on a book tour promoting his posthumous memoirs. Unterweger’s string of anecdotes, puzzles and philosophising is punctuated by arias from the two sopranos from works by Vivaldi, Mozart, Weber and others on the theme of women’s mistreatment by men. During much of this Malkovich is portraying the humiliation and murder that Unterweger inflicted on his victims on the two singers. This is probably the only chance, short of a Stefan Herheim production, that you’ll get to see Laura Aikin strangled with her own bra. It’s really creepy.

The performances are really good. Malkovich, of course, is that rarity; a Hollywood star who can actually act.  Not only does act, and very well, he does it with an Austrian accent.  He is very convincing as Unterweger.  Some of his angry outbursts are really quite terrifying.  The girls sing really well and are totally committed to doing what they have to do on stage, which largely consist of putting up with considerable indignities from Malkovich/Unterweger while still managing to sing. The orchestra, on period instruments, sounds just right. The whole thing is very well filmed and has really good DTS 5.1 sound (DD 2.0 and 5.1 as well). The English subtitles for the arias are a bit odd. I have no idea what “I encore you to Lethe’s opposite bank” means! There’s a 45 minute “making of” documentary on the disk as well but it’s not very illuminating.

All in all, well worth a look.

6 thoughts on “The Infernal Comedy

  1. I saw this live in Vienna and liked it a lot, though perhaps mainly because Malkovich carried it so well. Completely forgot that Laura Aikin was in it, I saw her at the Konzerthaus the other week singing Ives and Bolcom Cabaret songs and was impressed. The mistreatment theme seemed very Elfriede Jelinek, though without the literary merit (and also ironic because Jelinek signed a petition that got Unterweger released). I don’t recall things like “I encore you to Lethe’s opposite bank” being any less awkward in the German.

  2. “I encore you to Lethe’s opposite bank” ??? Would that really be considered an encore? Prrrrrobably not, but it’s apparent that he sang her to death!!! In a good and bad way at the same time!!!

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