An old man listens to a tape of himself as a 39 year old.

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An old man listens to a tape of himself as a 39 year old.

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27 October 2006 (Uruguay)  »

Also Known As:

La última cinta magnética  »

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1.66 : 1
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Version of Krapp's laatste band (1969) See more »

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Fine adaptation of Beckett's greatest play.
12 February 2001 | by (dublin, ireland) – See all my reviews

'Krapp's Last Tape''s lengthy opening mime seems to pre-empt Kubrick's narrative of evolution in '2001'. An old man sits at his desk in a dank, poorly lit room, full of moulding paperwork, gawping silently into nothingness, the melting reflection of heavy rain playing on his features. Is he senile? Blasted by some shattering revelation? Awaiting death like Hamm in 'Endgame'?

Although old, he is also newly born - he didn't exist until the play started. Soon he gets up, and, with arthritic gestures, circles the table and takes out a banana, holding it dazed in his mouth before eating it, re-circling the table and slipping on the skin. He eats a second banana, but doesn't repeat the error. Pavlovian progress! Next,

the man then takes out one of those huge creaking accounts books they used in medieval times; he has a number of 'spools' classified in a manner which might remind us of pedantic Victorian bureaucracy; finally, he listens to these spools on a taperecorder that must have been the height of modernity when the play was written in the early 60s. There you have it, a potted history of mankind - emerging from nothingness - the ape period and developing basic intelligence through trial and error - medieval - Victorian - modern, technological. A neat linear history of progress.

This is the first great irony in a play that is indeed concerned with time and history, but not in an optimistically linear way. krapp is a writer who, on each birthday, records a message reviewing his year, having first listened to a previous artefact. This year he listens to his 39-year-old self. Already we have a backwards leap in time, but within this older message are further reminiscences, including commentary on listening to an even older message.

This message krapp now listens to relates three shatteringly significant events, all three contributing, we feel, to the broken Krapp who stands before us - the death of his mother; a break-up with a loved one; and a revelation that finally decides the direction of his art. So even though at this comparitively youthful age, Krapp's life is full of loss and solitude, there is a 'fire' in him that has now been extinguished, or degenerated into phlegmatic cursing. We don't need to look far for the reasons for Krapp's decline - a man who records and classifies life rather than living it is doomed to lose it, but Krapp is not just a singular eccentric; he is a warning of what will happen to anyone who refuses to give themselves to happiness or others, who want to remain distant, in control.

If someone said Atom Egoyan was going to direct a Beckett play, you'd guess it was 'Krapp', with its hero who's dead life is fragmented by, and trapped in, a media machine; as well as a man who acts as dramatist, critic and audience, but never, it seems, performer, of his own life. And yet, Egoyan never imposes his concerns; it's only because we know it's Egoyan that we see the connection - he is rigorously faithful to the text and, more importantly, to Beckett's instructions.

Some of the novelties in the theatre - the playing on black and white imagery; the innovation of a theatrical performance that is not wholly live may be lost, but 'Krapp' is one of the three Beckett on Film successes - faced with the whole text, Egoyan preserves a 'theatrical' distance, with an unobtrusive, but slowly inclining camera achieving devastating results, which each rare, carefully chosen edit having a visceral charge.

He is helped in no end by John Hurt's marvellous performance, which negotiates the transition from childish slapstick to the bleakest loss at the same tonal level, as if the ravages on the mind of one created the infantilism of the other. This is my favourite Beckett play, where heartbreaking poetry veering towards sentimentality is undermined, but never obliterated, by rich self-reflexivity, by incongruous comedy, by a hero with a somewhat unflattering name.


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