Salesman Willy Loman is in a crisis. He's about to lose his job, he can't pay his bills, and his sons Biff and Happy don't respect him and can't seem to live up to their potential. He wonders what went wrong and how he can make things up to his family. Written by
In the earliest version of the play, Arthur Miller wrote that Willy Loman was insulted when he overheard someone call him a "shrimp" but changed it to "walrus" when the bulky Lee J. Cobb was cast in the role in the broadway premiere in 1947. When Dustin Hoffman took the part in the revival, Miller changed the script to include the original line. See more »
When Biff and Linda argue in the kitchen, Linda grabs an empty glass and places it under the tap, when she turns the tap on no water comes out but when she picks the glass up, it is full of water. See more »
I had to read Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman` for my English class this year. Our teacher was a very industrious woman and let us analyze every character's every word several times, until we couldn't hear the words Willy`, Linda`, Biff`, American Dream` and stockings` any more. It was terrible! She didn't show us any theater or film version, so we began to utterly dislike the text as a whole: a sentimental play where you already know the ending when you read the title.
A few days ago, I spotted Volker Schlöndorff's film version on television, a German dubbed version, but that doesn't matter because I already knew the lines and Schlöndorff hardly changed them.
Fortunately, Schlöndorff didn't make any effort to put his own special style into the movie, he just left the play the way it was and the way, I suppose, Arthur Miller wanted it. So some of you might claim that this version was too stage-drama-like, not cinematic. For me, this was ideal because I could see the REAL, lively Death of a Salesman`, played by an ideal cast: Dustin Hoffman: a little over-acting, but enthusisiastic; Kate Reid: so authentic that she could be taken for my mother; John Malkovich: silent, thoughtful, self-confident`, great! How shall I put it? This film sort of opened my eyes towards this great, merciless work of Arthur Miller. This play is something you can orientate your life to. At many important turning points of your life, you can remember Willy Loman and his fate that is fictitious but and believe me, I know some people who are exactly like him definitely could be the fate of a real person, and not only of an American. I found the Salesman` important, not as much as a criticism of the American Dream but an account of what must happen, if lives are built upon lies lies to others and lies to yourself. Those people who think Death of a Salesman` is rubbish are those who suppress cruel truths just as Willy Loman does.
So, when I saw this movie, I was completely stunned because its hopelessness became clear to me and I noticed how crucial this American classic really is. I give Schlöndorff 8 out of 10 stars because there are some flaws in his way of directing (e. g. letting Malkovich and Lang play their young alter egos was stupid because no one believes that they are 17).
Another sad example how bad teachers can destroy a masterpiece. Shame on you, Mrs. H.!
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