Let’s rehearse ‘The Rehearsal’ of a rehearsal   

Nathan Fielder is pictured. Via Wikimedia Commons
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According to the Collins Dictionary, a rehearsal can be defined as a “session of exercise, drill, or practice, usually private, in preparation for a public performance, ceremony, etc.” Although it is a term usually reserved for performance art or public speaking, rehearsing can also be seen in daily life such as thinking over an argument before a conversation. But, what if we could thoroughly rehearse for some of the most difficult and appalling moments of our lives?  

That’s exactly what Nathan Fielder’s creative mind (and what seems like an unlimited budget from HBO) wanted to crystalize in “The Rehearsal” (2022). Shown through an almost reality TV style and half-scripted, half-unscripted manner, Fielder sets out to provide different people a fully detailed rehearsal of a situation they will have to encounter, with paid actors, sets and many more eccentric elements.  

The show starts with a hint of a pseudo-satire, reflecting much of Fielder’s comedic background, as he reveals that he has rehearsed the first conversation with a potential candidate hundreds of times, with an actor and a full set. The latter is added to further prove what seems to be the thesis of the show: If you practice and account for every possibility, you cannot fail.

The first two episodes of this series do not deviate from their purpose. Fielder helps a man reveal a long-kept secret to a friend and a Catholic middle-aged woman rehearse being a mother to decide if she wants to have a child, all while managing insane-level logistics, developing deep relationships with the ‘subjects’ and somberly voicing over with his thoughts and ideas. However, in the third episode, when he decides to join his subject for the ‘child rehearsal,’ Fielder starts his descent down the rabbit hole.   

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When Fielder realizes he is inside a rehearsal, one that he himself is directing, as well as executing other rehearsals, he stops to truly reflect on what he’s doing, and the show stops being a casual TV series. Fielder, instead, with now a much darker tone, starts to use the concept of a rehearsal and his budget to figure out himself and what he believes to encompass a human being. He fully takes on the rehearsal of being a father, with child actors, classes, birthday parties, religious ideals and more; he rehearses a rehearsal to search for perfection; he rehearses the rehearsal of a rehearsal, just to see how other actors may perceive him, where he hires an actor to play him, and that’s not half as deep as the rabbit hole goes.  

Through the different rehearsals and events Fielder plans, he delves further into studying human behavior rather than the efficiency of practicing over and over the same situation. Additionally, counting with the intensity of seemingly 24-hour cameras and crews fully at his disposal, he’s able to truly analyze — and present to the viewer — a rather absolute research on humans’ emotions when repeatedly put through extenuating and convoluted situations.  

Toward the end, Fielder recognizes that while he has placed other’s lives as the focus of the show, the biggest impact of his journey has been on himself. That’s where the true beauty of the show lies. Fielder puts out all his persona and soul into the rehearsals, exploring himself but at the same time, losing his mind to the process. In episode two, Fielder expresses, “maybe when everything around you is temporary, you start longing for something more permanent,” referring to the fleeting core of a rehearsal. By trying to reach absolute perfection, Fielder breaks apart the viewer’s beliefs of what human essence really means. 

Although at the time of its filming Fielder may have been focused on producing a show about rehearsals, he instead made a piece of art which contains the most revealing representation of the human soul, all through the scope of the deterioration of his own ethos. Nonetheless, it is important to remark that this body of work would not have been possible without an almost perfect production, which presented a clean, concise and beautiful cut, which attaches value in a purely technical sense. 

As almost all pieces that can make the audience uncomfortable with its pureness and righteous mirroring of humanity, “The Rehearsal” may be less digestible by the general public. Either way, “The Rehearsal” will be remembered as a piece for all those who desire to understand more about themselves and the world around them, especially with Fielder’s eagerness to ask the questions that matter. 

“What if the path to forgiveness lies in somebody else’s eyes?”

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Summary

“The Rehearsal” will be remembered as a piece for all those who desire to understand more about themselves and the world around them, especially with Nathan Fielder’s eagerness to ask the questions that matter.

4.5 stars
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