In the Palace began with a daydream to enter inside two inaccessible places, to penetrate the tinyness of Giacometti’s surrealist sculpture The Palace at 4am (1932) and to move beyond the flatness of various photographs of early Modern stage and dance productions. In this film, Giacometti’s sculpture (which in a sense already resembles a theatrical model) is streamlined and scaled up to become a stage set proper; the posed theatrical stills are restaged as tableaux vivants.
Clothed in home-made costumes and striking stock poses, the performers in In the Palace parade degraded moments of 20th Century culture: the theatrical gestures of the Bauhaus, George Platt Lyne’s lush photographs of the American Ballet Theater, the stylized choreography of The Ballet Russe, Martha Graham’s Lamentation. In the Palace scrutinizes and releases these moments’ weird merging of hyperbolic emotional content and rigorous formalism.
In the Palace eases melodrama into a diffused melancholy; the tableaux are emptied of character and narrative, the performers’ expressions are blank, and a soundtrack of rainfall rumbles in the distance like muted applause. The film’s roving point of view and shifting shadows create the illusion that the set itself might be turning, and produces the essential emotional action of the film –its hypnotic, voyeuristic circling.
Lisa Von Blanckensee