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Rupert, a ten year old boy, falls hopelessly in love for the first time. When it all goes terribly wrong, he wishes never to experience heartache again. Turning to a book of magic, he invokes a spell to shield him from emotion forever.
This, being cutting-edge modern drama, I approached with not a little trepidation when Channel Four started its "Becket on Film" season. I'd already watched the five-minute short "Catastrophe" with John Gielgud and I didn't know what the hell that was on about.
For the newcomer, "Play" is bizarre and difficult to get to grips with. Three disembodied heads gabble away incessantly in monotone voices, each relating their own versions of a love triangle while a frantic CCTV camera cuts between them. I applaud Becket's decision to play the story twice, as otherwise I would not have fully appreciated this complex tale.
Essentially, "Play" is "Rashomon" at Warp 9. The shaky, noisy camera cuts between the three heads (Kristin Scott Thomas, Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson) as they fulfill their punishment to talk about their sins for eternity. It gets more and more frantic,cutting away first in mid-speech, then in mid-sentence, then in mid-word. Then Stevenson starts laughing hysterically. At times the film itself breaks down, as if it has been retrieved from hell itself.
At the end of 15 frantic minutes I was left a little confused by the three-layer dialogue. I shall need to watch this a few times, preferably with a script, to pick out the separate narrative strands. However, Minghella's direction was nothing short of sensational. He may have taken liberties with Becket's original text, but the rapid cross-cutting, repetition and the intrusive whir or the camera as it selected its target, made for one of the most breathtaking fifteen minutes of film I have ever had the privilege to see. This will not appeal to everyone, but I recommend it to the more adventurous viewer.
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