What is a Latvian nationalist doing with a Russian émigré?

The play "White Helicopter" directed by Alvis Hermanis, staged in 2019 at the New Theater in Riga, 58a Miera Street. The performance was played mainly in English (partly in Italian, Polish, German and Latin) with simultaneous translation into Latvian and Russian. photo. Jānis Deinats, New Theater in Riga

We are dealing with an uncompromising artist. And although he himself is not a Catholic, he took an interest in Benedict XVI as a man who went against the tide of contemporary tendencies.

On the day of Pope Benedict’s death the Latvian director and playwright Alvis Hermanis made a post on Facebook, in which he announced he had finished working on his feature film entitled “The White Helicopter”. It was the events of 2013 – the last days of the pope who died a week ago – that became the artists’ subject of interest.

“The White Helicopter” is, at the same, an adaptation of a play under the same title staged in Autumn 2014 in the New Riga Theatre. Its author and director is also Hermanis. This artist doesn’t conceal his fascination for Benedict XVI and his thought.

Of course, the topic addressed in “The White Helicopter” refers to issues bothering people all across the globe. It is about delving into the reasons for Benedict’s abdication but not only.

Hermanis is considered a leading theatre innovator of the 21st Century. In 2012, the Swiss magazine “Du” was numbered among the ten most influential theatre personalities of the first decade of our century. Spectators in Poland, too, could many a time get acquainted with his artistic oeuvre.

The chance of watching “The White Helicopter” was limited though. The only way was to visit the New Riga Theatre. And, at that, there were only few performances. The Covid-19 pandemics broke out in 2020 and the lockdowns resulting wherefrom caused the stage life to die out in Latvia too.

It was actually the difficult pandemics situation that prompted Hemanis to make a film adaptation of “The White Helicopter”. This play is absent from the New Riga Theatre’s repertoire. Meanwhile it will be possible to distribute the film on a global scale. Enthusiastic reviews are already giving it publicity.

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Filip Memches Translated by Dominik Szczęsny-Kostanecki