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"Screen Two" The Insurance Man (1986)

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16 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Terrific! A Kafka-esque classic.

Author: Lou Rugani ( from United States
5 June 2000

The title does this marvelous film an injustice. A man, trying to find medical and financial aid towards a work-related illness, finds only callousness and insensitivity from those agencies to whom he appeals. This is a totally-absorbing dive (with humor!) into a nightmare realm of frustration, bureaucracy and buck-passing that will entertain, scare, and ultimately awe you with the knockout punch within its final moments. Take the phone off the hook, cancel your appointments, and delve into "The Insurance Man". It's that kind of film.

I was surprised to see less than five votes on this site because, in the later 1980s, "The Insurance Man" was seen rather frequently on the "arts" channels. I hope it becomes widely-known again. Highly recommended for adults, and a rare '10' from me.

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Uneven, but well worth seeing

Author: runamokprods from US
9 February 2013

Beautifully shot and very well acted by a large cast that includes Daniel Day Lewis and Jim Broadbent. This is an attempt to make Franz Kafka the man, a supporting character in a story with the feel of his writings; the nightmarish surreal confusion and darkness. (Steven Soderbergh did something somewhat similar in his film 'Kafka', but that was far more surreal and baroque, and less a social statement, and Kafka was at the center of the tale).

In this case it's the world of insurance covering industrial accidents, the world in which Kafka did in fact earn his living. There are trenchant and often darkly funny observations on the abuses of the industrial world of those that labor in it, and the absurdity built into the system of insurance, working to insure that the majority of people will simply give up on ever collecting.

In 1945, with Prague under Nazi control a man dying from asbestos destroyed lungs tells his doctor of how many years earlier as a young man (Robert Hines) he sought help for a skin condition brought on by his work in a dye factory, ending up being helped by Kafka.

While there is a lot to admire here, I did find the tone a bit wobbly, and some of the themes and ideas more heavy-handedly overstated (or re-stated) than might have been needed. At least on first viewing it worked slightly better as an idea than as a finished piece. I enjoyed seeing Alan Bennett stretch himself as a writer and director Richard Eyre's eye for noir-like nightmare images, but in the end, I didn't find the whole that emotional or impactful. More interesting than involving.

That said, it is dense enough that it may well improve on a 2nd visit. Certainly the professional critical response was of a very high order.

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