A hot, thirsty man in the desert is tormented when the things he needs drop from the sky only to disappear again or hover out of his reach.

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A hot, thirsty man in the desert is tormented when the things he needs drop from the sky only to disappear again or hover out of his reach.

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Beckett: Sanaton näytös I  »

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Beckett directed by alumnus of the Angry Young Men.
7 March 2001 | by (dublin, ireland) – See all my reviews

In the 1950s, two disparate movements in British theatre swept aside the prevailing mode of polite, drawing room drama (eg Rattigan). One was the abrasive Angry Young Men movement; the other was the more philosophical, formalist 'universal' work of Samuel Beckett, and assorted Absurdists. Director Karel Reisz made his name with the former social-realist school, perhaps explaining the hames he offers of Beckett's mime in this film. The theme of the mime is commonplace enough - the frustrating pointlessness of existence; the sadism of unseen forces etc. - but the mime form gives some originality to these self-parodic themes, failing to reach the Buster Keaton level it aspires to.

Reisz sets the desert scene on a soundstage, with absurdly bright paper sky and artificial sand, perhaps pointing to the artificiality of the piece, or of our lifelong struggles. He downplays the influence of silent comedy, making the hero a recognisable Everyman figure. This minimises the piece's humour, but also its pathos because of the manner of filming - theatrical space is not translated into film space; and the mime suffers. Reisz's recourse to hackneyed close-ups and editing undercuts any momentum in the piece, which depends on the body and its reactions. The various comic bits are obscured by obtrusive framing.


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