A captivating 70-minute multimedia work scripted and helmed by Belgium’s Josse de Pauw, this wondrously cohesive work dissects the foible-laden adult world as reflected in the words and actions of six super-observant children. “UBung,” whose titles translates as “practice,” becomes a chilling commentary on the jaundiced destiny adults pass on to the next generation.
A gigantic screen dominates the Freud stage, upon which is projected a clunky black-and-white film depicting a dinner party hosted at the country estate of dysfunctional but affluent Robert (Josse de Pauw) and his wife Rolanda (Carly Wys). Rolanda is using the opportunity to show off her house guest, Russian violinist Georgy (George Van Dam), to their dinner guests — Ivo (Dirk Roofthooft), his wife Ria (Lies Pauwels) and their poetry-spouting friend Olivier (Bernard Van Eeghen).
On its own, the film is an often-hilarious exercise in retro cinematography, a study in bourgeois boredom that plays like an abstruse collaboration of Fellini, Antonioni and John Cassevetes. The film sports thoroughly impressive perfs, and the overly effusive civility of the dinner guests predictably disintegrates with the passage of too much transparent posturing, fueled by copious quantities of booze. The ultimate emotional breakdown of these supposed adults would be tedious to endure except for the fact their machinations are being keenly copied.
In a tour de force ensemble performance, six children on stage, ages 10-15, mimic the words and actions of the adults onscreen. Utilizing racks of clothes placed on either side of the stage, they even dress as their character counterparts. Soon the soundtrack of the film is turned off and all the words and sound effects of the film are only being voiced live onstage in Flemish. The supertitles are still projected in English but they are unneeded. The action onstage is too fascinating; an aura of tangible sadness is projected by guileless, clear-voiced young Arne Kinds as he voices the reams of self-serving banality spewing from the mouth of his onscreen counterpart Robert.
“UBung” is in the midst of a world tour. The only drawback to the fluid performance of the children is the disquieting realization that they may be too practiced in displaying the shallow, pretentious corruption of adult life. Special kudos must go to virtuoso young violinist Stefaan De Rycke, whose live duplication of the musical outpourings of onscreen Georgy (George Van Dam) is worth the price of admission.