My life without me

Miroslav Srnka: My life without me

A young woman makes arrangements for her family following her death. Miroslav Srnka has drawn text and material for his composition from the film “My Life Without Me”, directed by Isabel Coixet. Srnka’s work for Claron McFadden and the Ensemble Intercontemporain was premiered in Paris on 28 November 2008.

“What attracts me about Isabel Coixet’s films,” says Miroslav Srnka, “is that they always touch on the fundamental questions of life. They deal with contemporary themes in simple stories with normal people, not with stylised figures. I originally contacted the director about a music-theatre project, but then I also wanted a text for my new work for Claron McFadden and the Ensemble Intercontemporain.”The dramatic central point is that 23-year-old Ann, following a cancer diagnosis, intuitively decides not to tell her two daughters, husband and mother that she is soon going to die. Instead, she assembles tasks for their lives after her death and writes lists for herself to do in the short time remaining: her husband is to find another wife who will love him and their daughters, and she records birthday greetings for her daughters until their 18th birthdays. She herself wants to carry on living, as another man has fallen in love with her.Miroslav Srnka describes the tableau: “the film plays as a plot with dialogues, but really, the whole action takes place in the main figure of Ann. Therefore I only took Ann’s parts in the dialogues from the screenplay. Although there is only one singer on the stage, this is no monodrama: this imparter of information, the response of an absent interlocutor, is central for me. The texts are three-layered. There are sections of dialogue in the present, monologues about the past and Ann’s recorded wishes for the future, a kind of legacy: this will be my voice in a future life, which I am now preparing for the people dearest to me. The singer moves between these three levels of text, which are also very different in sound. What interests me here is the examination of differing time structures which actually separates the self-reflective monologues, the unconscious narrative of the dialogues and what is said now and the wishes which will be heard in the future, from each other. Compositionally it is a musical examination of time which doesn’t refer to anything happening in the drama. Time is both experienced actually by the main figure as well as captured intellectually, and consciously conserved for the future. The dramaturgy consists of four central musical items, each of which portrays important dramatic moments in the story.I find this very strong central figure fascinating. She is a simple cleaning woman, with a modest way of life. But although she has never had time to think about herself, she very quickly reaches a decision about how she should spend the remainder of her life. That is the theme: this kind of bargaining which is at the same time both manipulative, yet, to my mind, also understandable and admirable – how this woman brings people together in order to arrange life without her. Ann does things which, in a normal situation, one would find morally unforgivable, in order to find strength for herself to make the future for others better. There is a fantastic tension in this character, who doesn’t result in a main figure rich in positive and negative contrasts in the usual way. And this tension is also found in the language. For example, when the doctor informs her that she will die, she asks him for a ginger candy and discusses the flavour with him. It’s precisely in the dialogues of greatest narrative simplicity that we learn the most about the person.”Marie Luise Maintz

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