FORMOFADROP      Oleg Ferstein Photography


The Immortal


Stage and film production, performed by original Bunraku puppets. Based on homonymous story by J. L. Borges.

Language – English


Project Visuals





The rare books dealer Joseph Cartaphilus, sells Princess de Lucinge the six quarto minor volumes (1715-1720) of Alexander Pope’s Iliad. Between the pages of the last book, the princess finds some handwritten text, from which she learns the true story of Joseph Cartaphilus – the immortal, the former military tribune of one of the legions of Rome – Marcus Flaminius Rufus.

The story goes back to the time of the emperor Diocletian, at hundred-gated Thebes. Miraculously survived the last war with Mauritanians, Marcus Rufus meets a wounded warrior.


Soldier bleeding to death, dies in his arms.


But before drew his last breath, he tells Marcus on the river giving immortality and the great City of Immortals at the edge of the earth.

Horrified by witnessing of death, but encouraged by the story of a soldier, legionnaire decides to go on searches of the river and the City.


On his way through the deserts, crossing the lands of the Troglodytes, Garamantas, Augiles and Satyrs he loses his army, slaves and mercenaries. Exhausted, alone he finally gets to the muddy stream, the river that gives immortality. On the horizon are visible towers, domes and amphitheaters of the City of Immortals. He finds himself in the settlement of the savages, who subsequently turn out to be immortals.

One of them is stalking Marcus everywhere. He tells him the story about appearance of the City. Marcus discovers that this man is no one else but Homer himself.


Former military tribune finds the City disgusting, meaningless, useless and unfit for life. Not death frightens him now, but infinite life in the village of Immortals. Existing as lifeless dolls whose faces come to life only when the play of light - sunset, sunrise ... they have lost the very meaning of being alive. They don’t know neither joy nor sorrow, nor compassion. Once at dawn Marcus and Homer decide to leave the settlement. They are seeking now another river, the one that washes away the immortality.


Living centuries after that and calling himself at the end Joseph Cartaphilus, Marcus finally acquires the desired mortality. So times are losing their connections. Joseph Cartaphilus is now all the people he met, and perhaps he is all these people. That is him who composed the Odyssey, the seven voyages of Sindbad, the story of the City of Brass, six volumes of Pope's Iliad.


That was him who left this manuscript – just one mortal man.





Director and screenwriter Oleg Ferstein came up with the idea to tell the story of J.L. Borges “ The Immortal” by means of Bunraku puppets – ancient traditional Japanese puppet theater, although in this case it’s rather European adaptation.


Puppets are immortal, for they know nothing of death. And there is nothing very remarkable for puppet about being immortal. On the contrary, for mankind!  “What is divine, terrible, and incomprehensible is to know oneself immortal.” – says Borges. That is why the most gifted actor is not able to play such character. Willy-nilly he or she will start to use cliché behaviors according to their recognition of God, for instance.


But the most significant point about this idea, that artist is able to apprehend his creation as something immortal. That is why – Bunraku. Not marionettes or marotte-puppets, nor pull string or body puppets. But precisely Bunraku. Where inspiration, passion, and the very awe of puppeteer are clearly seen. Where the presence of Puppeteer – artist is not less important then performance of puppet itself.


Two parallel low podiums of a trapezoid shape, arranged one behind the other and creating an illusion of expressed perspective, are the basis of the scenery.

On the front one, puppeteers manipulating with bigger - 1 m. tall puppets, on the podium placed behind, are presented puppets - 50 cm. tall. That creates even more expressed perspective and adds to each scene peculiar depth. Each puppet consists of 30-40 segments, which allows to reach the most of flexibility and plasticity of movements.


The main module element of the scenery is a book. By means of books are created all the scenography sets - furniture, landscapes, details and attributes.

Backgrounds are presented by projections of original photography by Alexandru Crisan and Oleg Ferstein.


It is planned to use of live music in the epic style. Namely, a small orchestra of five musicians: accordion, cello, flute, percussion and folk instruments such as the didgeridoo and harp. An important element of musical accompaniment is a female voice.


Puppets do not open their mouths. Their only means of expression are movements and plasticity. Therefore two voiceover actors are leading the performance and revealing the plot.



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