My wife took me to see Cabaret recently. I only had a vague idea what it was about. It’s about a cabaret, right? Liza Minnelli starred in a version of it, right? There is a certain fragile comfort in thinking you have some idea what a story is about. It can make the ending a bit more emotionally moving than you expected.
For example, I wasn’t sure going in whether this was set in Paris or Berlin. I thought perhaps Paris. I thought it was amidst WWII, not post WWI as the Nazis were just getting started. I didn’t realize how it was all about leading up to the incredible horrors that were coming. I realized these things slowly as I watched, but only so much. When we got close to the ending and the backdrop pulled back, my stomach literally dropped as I felt the thrum and was blinded by the glare of the furnace (for this version). When the Master of Ceremonies took off his leather overcoat to reveal a concentration camp uniform (again, for this version), my jaw was on the floor.
“I should have warned you it didn’t have a happy ending,” my wife remarked afterward. Well, with something set in the time period where the Nazis were coming to power…how could it? I didn’t expect anything happy, and had plenty of time to correct any misapprehensions on that aspect, but I was still nowhere near prepared.
I think it’s better than I wasn’t prepared. I think it was best to have that kind of emotional impact. It seems like that’s the best way.