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Film

UK, 1979 (MIFF 1980, Programme 12)

Director: David Clark

"For One striving to see One striving not to be seen" was the sub-title to the first draft of Samuel Beckett's only screenplay so far — "Film". In it Beckett asks us to imagine that we may have existence only as constructs of the imagination of others, and so, if we wish to be free of the burden of Being, all we need to do is to render ourselves unperceived. At any rate, this is what O, the central figure in "Film" tries to achieve, and "Film" records the tragi-comic aspect of his efforts. In David Clark's version, the second to be made, Max Wall, a comic actor well known for the expressiveness of his movements, plays O. Until the film's last moments his face is never seen, but nevertheless he succeeds in creating a character who is comic, pathetic, and agonising to watch. The film makes subtle use of non-naturalistic colour and sound effects without dialogue to distinguish between the viewpoints of 0 and of E, the ever-searching eye of the perceiver, and so achieves an effect that is both strikingly unreal and atmospheric. "Film" represents an experimental use of the medium to express an idea that has been central to philosophy. It expresses the agony of being perceived, and, in its denouement, shows us what it is that we each most fear to see.

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