Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Max Wall in Film
"There is an altogether more 'British' music hall feel about proceedings." | Photo: BFI

If the 1965 version of Film, on which Samuel Beckett collaborated heavily with director Alan Schneider and cinematographer Boris Kaufman, was a triumph of minimalism, this BFI version from more than a decade later is considerably more fussy.

The basic story is still the same with O (this time played by Max Wall) trying to escape the eyes of everyone, including himself and especially E, as represented by the camera. I've talked about some of the themes in my review of the earlier film, so I'll focus here on the differences between the two versions. Chief among them is David Rayner Clark's seeming desire to add more humour to proceedings. Drawing on earlier versions of the script with a much more detailed opening, there is an altogether more 'British' music hall feel about proceedings - from some slapstick business with a flour sack to Wall kicking his briefcase around his hideaway as he tries to pick it up. He's less successful in a sequence involving a cat and dog, with the animals' gaze much less obvious in this version than the earlier film and the slapstick less well timed.

Where the 1965 film maintained its steely silence, save for its comedic, "Shhhhh", this later adaptation includes no speaking but plenty of background noise. While this does suggest a certain drudgery, it doesn't feel as focused as the earlier film, while the use of a flautist playing Schubert's Der Doppelganger seems unnecessarily on the nose. There is altogether something more 'fake' about this production - although Beckett himself might well have approved of that.

Reviewed on: 02 Jun 2017
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Remake of the Samuel Beckett screenplay of a man trying to escape the perception of others.


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