When briefly in a “paused state”, Father realizes that something has failed while downloading; it should have removed the trauma of his wife’s death but didn’t, dooming him to mourn her for all eternity. He wants to be terminated, an irreversible action that can only be taken by his daughter.
If this dilemma does not seem entirely convincing or deserved, it is because the Girl is never properly developed. She is presented as curious about her father’s new form, but it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling more than shock or anger in her place. Instead, she is only shown in various states of mourning. (And maybe that’s too much of a New York-centric fixation, but how on earth can this young lady afford to live in a spacious TriBeCa penthouse with a garden patio?)
Perhaps it is for the best, then, that we never see his decision. Parallel stories come to parallel ends: the past, the night before the Father’s download, and the present, the night before its likely end. In a breathtaking twist, a white curtain emerges, suspended above the audience. We see the Father and the Daughter projected on a split screen. Although at opposite ends of the stage, even on different planes of existence, they are presented as if they were one-on-one.
As they fall asleep we find ourselves with the Father’s Memory Anchor, a digitally rendered dream – the green of the earth too green, the blue of the sky too blue. Everything we’ve heard of is there: stone, warm to the touch, a lizard at rest. But the image sometimes flickers, defaulting to 3D line art in the drawing software, until the resolution degrades to soft color fields. Only the sounds of the breeze and the song of the birds remain.
It’s a mysterious final scene, but one that requires no response. Regardless of what happens next, someone will be forced to live with the pain of the loss. And no technology, it seems, can spare us this fundamentally human experience.
Until October 8 at the Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam; operaballet.nl.