The Burial of the Dead (Karaoke Remix)

Manuel Saiz

1999, 05:21 minutes, colour, English, German


From a dark space, we can see a small bird hopping nervously to and fro and ticking against the other side of the glass of a small window, somewhere high up. As subtitles to this scene, the lines of Burial of the Dead (part 1 of The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot) can be read. A small white ball, known from Karaoke, beats time to the recitation and also accentuates the stress on the words. It is conducting the voice that reads the poetry lines, even though this is not paying much attention. The voice is creaky, but impressive - not surprisingly, because it is the poet himself speaking via an old sound recording. It is the bird rather than the voice that, perhaps hungry, is following the to-and-fro movement of the ball in a danse macabre.

The ‘Karaoke Remix’ represents the somewhat whiney kind of gloominess of the poem, which also rings through in the poet’s voice. By introducing the poet as a present-day performer, Saiz underlines Eliot’s view of the world as it also comes out in this poem: things that are beautiful, vulnerable and sublime will always be undermined by banality; every attempt at making a difference is doomed to fail, and life only leads to death.

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