Regular deck: 52 cards. 4 colours. 4 royal families. 2 jokers.
Tarot deck: 78 cards. 4 symbols. 4 royal families. 21 arcana or trump cards. 1 joker.
Card games consist of a series of rules, symbols, signs, mathematical or numerological structures, mythologies, and, above all, characters. By combining and ordering them, you can create as many stories as there are possible arrangements. At least that’s the intuition guiding Robert Lepage and his collaborators on the project called Playing Cards. With such a range of possibilities, the creators imposed the structure of a deck of cards on the project. It will consist of four parts: SPADES, HEARTS, DIAMONDS, and CLUBS, each exploring a universe inspired by the asset the suit represents.
Research into the origin of cards invariably leads back to the Arab world. The tetralogy’s four parts, each independent and yet interrelated with the others, will make up a cosmos dealing with our past, present and future relationships, our exchanges, and sometimes too, our culture shocks when encountering the Arab way of life.
Playing Cards: HEARTS
In Playing Cards: HEARTS, a web is woven around three countries and across five generations, linking Algeria, France and Quebec, from the 1848 Spring of Nations to the Arab Spring.
In 2011, Chaffik, a young North African taxi driver in Quebec City, delves into his genealogical past to untangle questionable events linked to the disappearance of his grandfather and the origins of his family.
In 1856, renowned French magician Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin is sent to Algeria by the French government to challenge the spiritual and magical powers of the marabouts.
Chaffik and Robert-Houdin are connected by a familial, political and artistic network naturally woven by history and stories, along with questions of faith, beliefs, magic and performances. These themes fit together like clockwork.
HEARTS tells the story of colonial Algeria, a confluence of foreign politics and French inventions in magic, science and photography. These innovations and ideas incubate in the alleys of Algiers and become essential tools of the Algerian resistance.
HEARTS also explores 19th-century France, particularly French magicians (Robert-Houdin and Méliès) and their relationship to science, cinema and Spiritualist séances—very popular in French intellectual and artistic circles of the era.
Among bureaucratic archivists in Paris, Chaffik uncovers the story of a forger from the resistance and traces links between France and its former colony.
In Quebec, we meet Chaffik, his immigrant family and his girlfriend Judith, who is a lecturer in cinema theory at Laval University and the daughter of a diplomat. She is the centre point of all these rotating gears.
With a 360° scene design, the set of HEARTS becomes everything from a magic lantern with fantastic stories and cinematic images, to a hot spot on the brink of exploding from a complex chain of relationships.
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