An aging traveling salesman recognizes the emptiness of his life and tries to fix it.An aging traveling salesman recognizes the emptiness of his life and tries to fix it.An aging traveling salesman recognizes the emptiness of his life and tries to fix it.
It's not worth talking about much of the actual plot or story of the film/play, although it is of note that one of the very best (or at least most effective) scenes for me comes when Willy visits Howard at the office. This exchange, and the drama that unfolds, is a truly heart-breaking little moment, among some others in the film, where you see a collision of "old-school" salesmanship and the always now recycling form of BS that goes with the salesman/business world. Really, what's worth talking about is the acting, and certain things with the style, for if you are wanting to check out the film before (or after) seeing the play, it's worth it to know what you'll be in for. In short, Hoffman is quite powerful and true in the film, though in ways that aren't really expectable.
An image from reading the play of Willy (that he might be bigger than life, though perhaps little in the mind, and out of shape) might go against a low-energy actor like Hoffman. But somehow, it seems to work, because there's heart and fire in the performance. Same goes for Malkovich, though on a different level. Their scenes together, or on their own, are like watching pro boxers have a go at each other, old timer versus a new champ; there is one other scene, when Biff catches Willy in the hotel room with his 'lady friend' that is likely one of the best scenes either actor has ever done (even if it's questionable if overall the performances are among their best).
As far as stylistics go, Schlondorff usually does the right thing: let these actors have their way around, and just try to film it without too much getting in the way. He does this, and at the same time is clever with certain camera sweeps and timing in the narrative (Miller's play was one of the first to jump around, like a novel or even a some films). The music by Alex North is one of my least favorite aspects to th film, as it chimes in some emotional cues that aren't right at all (though when it gets to the jazzy 40's style music then it's not bad). This version of Death of a Salesman is definitely recommended by me, but it may not be the absolute definitive version for some.
- Oct 29, 2005