»Who will protect us from our protectors? Who will police our police? Who will judge our judges? And who will release our release?«
P. Staff’s The Prince of Homburg reinterprets the eponymous early nineteenth-century play by Heinrich von Kleist that explores states of exhaustion and somnambulism as means of free will in times of war and royal military orthodoxy. Staff eschews the traditional structure in five acts towards a loose narration in three parts (The Prince is sleepwalking / is imprisoned / to be executed). This story feels simultaneously heightened and tranquilized through a dreamlike montage of daytime and nighttime sceneries, archival footage, interviews, vibrantly colored hand-painted animations, dance music, slow songs, and the entrancing voice-over of writer, artist, musician, and astrologer Johanna Hedva in the dual role of narrator and the Prince. Merging the theatrical and the essayistic and addressing traditions of the violent entanglements between sovereignty, normativity, and entrapment, Staff seeks out contemporary strategies of autonomous and collective dissidence against the neoliberal and neocolonial order. Over the course of the film, they give voice to peers and allies such as singer-songwriter Macy Rodman who shares details of the development of her club track Lazy Girl that deals with hormonal-driven tiredness; attorney and actress Debra Soshoux’s expresses sharp and poignant observations around the feelings which are essential to the material body and the mortality of gender expression; writer Che Gosset’s voices insights into the system of mass incarceration as means of mass annihilation and the connections between abolitionist struggles, carceral emotions, and queer desires; scholar Sarah Schulman’s addresses observations around the AIDS pandemic, community responses, and the politicizing of the dead.
»The law is a reflection of the consensus of a body politic at any given point in time«, Soshoux recalls her impulsive answer being a naval justice student towards the task of defining the systems of regulations at the middle and climax of this version of The Prince of Homburg. Against consensus, Staff’s work functions as a poetic yet urgent wake-up call for queerness as the contemporary site of non-compliance and dissent. (Viktor Neumann)
Images: P. Staff, The Prince of Homburg, 2019 © P. Staff/ Courtesy LUX, London