The film reaches its climax during one of the finest performances of Bellini’s Norma, sung by Callas more often than any other opera. The interchangeable personae of Maria/Marina are now complicated further with the spectacle of Willem Dafoe dressed in a full-length gold sequin gown, walking hand in hand into the fire, as occurs in the final act, with Abramović switching to the male role. “When she decides to walk into the fire to sacrifice herself, the Roman general looks at this and understands how stupid he is. He still loves her and how incredibly brave this woman is and so he comes to hold her hand in the fire together. So he’s in woman clothes, and she's the warrior.”
This fiery ending also recalls her own brush with self-immolation for Rhythm 5 (1974), in which she surrounded her naked figure with a five-pointed star in flames (illustrated above), which almost suffocated her due to the lack of oxygen. In placing herself at the centre of these traumatic, theatrical outbursts of loss, love and longing, Abramović honours and inhabits not only the spirit of the virtuoso soloist Callas, but also suggests that these roles can be reversed, re-imagined and renewed by future generations of performers.