The Show of Shows (15A)

Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson
Picturehouse, Liverpool
15th December 2015

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

The astounding features of this documentary about the traditions of the circus and vaudeville, going back over one hundred years, are the archive films, principally drawn from the National Fairground Archive, as well as the sublime soundtrack music.

The original score was created by two members of Icelandic band Sigur Ros, Georg Holm and Orri Pall Dyrason, in collaboration with Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson and Kjartan Dagur Holm.

The director, Benedikt Erlingsson ('Of Horses And Men'), also hails from Iceland, and deserves lavish praise for assembling such a memorable film.

In most cases the music perfectly matches the visuals. The lack of any dialogue throughout the 75 minutes span is a blessing.

The many archive pieces, mainly black & white, are shown in several themed sections.

For instance, you see performing clowns, lion tamers, polar bears going down slides, a parade of elephants walking around a circus ring with their front legs positioned on the one in front of them, tightrope walkers and burlesque female dancers.

Some of the images are horrendous to watch. For example, lions and tigers being tormented by humans, the humiliation of animals being dressed in human clothing, a tiny baby being juggled above his head by a man standing on top of a skyscrapers, and two small children punching each other in the head with boxing gloves while being watched by an audience.

Fortunately most of the ill practices perpetrated on animals within the circus environment would not be permitted in modern times.

Unfortunately, however, in the natural environment humans still like to slaughter animals for sport and sadistic pleasure.

I must remember to download The Show of Shows soundtrack.... Ambient music with a capital A!

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