At this moment the phone rang and I found myself talking to Miss Sarah Caldwell, artistic director of the National Opera Company. Miss Caldwell told me that she was preparing a production of Alban Berg’s opera Lulu. Berg died before he had completed the score for Lulu, which was based on Wedekind’s play. Miss Caldwell had gone through Berg’s notes and found outlines of brief films that Berg had intended to create and project as part of the opera… Would I be interested in creating such films to be incorporated in her production?
We wanted images in motion to “appear” rather than obviously starting a “movie”. Roger found a magic piece of aluminized Mylar — mirrored plastic that we used to distort images — in a shop on Canal Street. We distorted in projection as well as in recording. We projected on many surfaces… but the choice of a Lulu was basic to our success. We might have used the lady that sang the part but she was too busy to spend time in our foolish endeavours. I had been reading Wedenkind and Nietzsche in search of the Lulu myth… a young woman of exceptional beauty, fascinating to men and to women, a hedonist perhaps but certainly not a trollop; innocent, impetuous, and ultimately dogged by a train of disastrous relationships… I was staying at the Chelsea Hotel and Edie Sedgwick, one of Andy Warhol’s Super-Stars, was living down the hallway. Edie became our Lulu. She wore the same costumes and wigs and makeup. A tragically accurate choice.
— Ricky Leacock
Edie Sedgwick Lulu
Ricky Leacock and I wanted to try to use some of the techniques of the Czechoslovakian film and theater – of the actors walking from the stage and onto the screen and off the screen and onto the stage. But mostly we wanted to capture the essence of Lulu in a way that is very difficult to do without the use of closeups. The unreal images of Lulu, the frightening things that one didn’t even want to talk about, could be shown more clearly on the film that they could be shown in life.
Ricky went to find Sedgwick and we used five or six film sequences on the opera which he did with her. He started shooting them as very literal film and then he filmed the images reflected on Mylar, which produced a strange image that came and went. So the deeper one got into Lulu, and the stranger her whole relationship to the world became, the further out the film was.
The final scene is very dark, but I remember vividly his killing her and cutting her into nice little pieces. On the screen the audience could see the shimmering, distorted image of Edie’s head with a red wig on a greenish-white sheet, and then slowly a huge pool of blood spreads around her head.
Lulu is finally destroyed. But you can’t wipe out the Lulus of the world. They go on.
— Sarah Caldwell