The Pyramid Texts


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

James Cosmo in The Pyramid Texts
"Be told. See this film."

A piece of raw power, The Pyramid Texts is the kind of film that you know you want to see again as soon as it is over, but can't - so affecting is James Cosmo's towering central performance as Ray, a veteran boxer, that it becomes a question of preparedness - the desire is immediate, but, even fore-warned, any returnee needs to be certain that they are fit to undertake the journey, to greet (at) it again.

Cosmo won the best performance award at Edinburgh's 2015 Film Festival, and it deserves it. There is scarcely a second he is not on the screen, filling it sometimes with the smallest movement, hot water from flask, teabag from cup, filling it sometimes with his craggy face, all white hair and whiskers, filling it sometimes with his hands, the slow winding round of bandage and tape, filling it sometimes with his frame, no small man he in real life, but here, step and punch and dance and jab in the boxing ring, a lion in his den, all pride and power, all craggy countenance, all this will pass.

Copy picture

Meditative, rousing, looping, recursing, gnashing and boasting and wistful and weary, solemn and snarling and grinning and bleak, unfolding prose as we watch a man speak. Adapted from stage this is close to unique. This is an outpouring, an effusion, a testament. It explains itself while keeping secrets, trusts you to remember what you've been told and see the shadow new light casts on old shapes.

BAFTA winner Geoff Thomson's play is interpreted for the screen in a debut feature for the brothers Shammasian. Ludwig and Paul show incredible talent, from the stark monochrome to a confidence in stillness. As Ray talks, and this is monologue, apostrophe, the addressee drawn ever closer with detail and question, an interrogation of self and of the self. As Ray talks sometimes we see pictures, flashes, the steady set of Cosmo's face, the top rope that won the war, the ring, the square circle, everything in this tight small space of canvas and emotion.

There's a spiritual weight. This is not quite a soul measured against a handful of feathers, more against a bag of sand, hanging, waiting for the blow. Outside, we never see, but into the boxing club intrudes the sound of rain, trains, thunder mechanical, meteorological, portent and counterpoint. A real location, dressed just enough, the feel of authenticity in every tile and trophy and photograph in background, every catch and scar and deed in foreground. Stephen Hilton provides music but its use is so well judged that it's hard to tell where it carries and the voice leaves off. The look, the movement, the choreography of contemplation and counter-punch, and Cosmo. What a voice - what words - "a yard of ale and a pint of tattoo ink"; "the best day of my life" might approach cliche but here it is refrain and so too "these are just some of the stories I never told you..." "I'm telling you now". Be told. See this film.

This is properly written, written and tested as text, as words, and then filtered phenomenally for the screen. There's a reference to the Raging Bull himself, to the Rocky that inspired Rocky, but this is a film that is within boxing, not about the sweet science, about the human practitioners of it and other faiths. The Egyptians took the organs of the dead and preserved them separately from the body, The Pyramid Texts, the Brothers Shammasian, Cosmo's performance, breaks the heart and holds it. This is a canopic jar of emotion. It is worth any penny to bring before your eyes.

The Pyramid Texts is available digitally on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play from 28 April 2017.

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2015
Share this with others on...
A fighter recalls his life in and out of the ring.

Director: Ludwig Shammasian, Paul Shammasian

Writer: Geoff Thompson

Starring: James Cosmo, Ethan Cosmo

Year: 2015

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2015

Search database:

If you like this, try:

The Wrestler