Beckett on Film
The Beckett Film Project
Catastrophe | Ohio Impromptu | Come and Go | Breath | Play | Act Without Words II | What Where
In no single instance is a play brought off satisfactorily. Ohio Impromptu is best, because the director is toying with his motion-control camera and lets Jeremy Irons get on with it. In general, it’s best to toy with something behind the camera, if you don’t know the business.
Catastrophe leads to a non sequitur, when Sir John Gielgud lifts his head to receive the clapping of the Director and his Secretary, unless one takes into account the revelation of Play, which is like watching a play and watching it being performed (an experience you will have if you go and see a play twice during its run).
Come and Go might have been done differently. It would not have hurt to film it outdoors, but the entrances and exits are just as easily accomplished as removals or walk-ons on or off-camera.
Breath does not gain by a digitalized plane of garbage in space, floating.
Play is frankly hoked up by attributing film stock with the characteristics of the urns the actors are in, and there is a good deal of digitalized quirkiness. The actors speak too rapidly for comprehension, but this is so heroic and they are so good and again the director is kept busy, so you have the play, although the obvious solution has been burked, which would have been to situate the camera in front of the actors and let it turn to each one turn and turn about.
Act Without Words II is presented as a digitalized palimpsest in a rather amateur (film school) way, but the performance has at least one gag in it.
What Where is for some reason situated in the Library of Babel, with the Book of Sand on its floor. This does not obtrude, however, not being explicit, and the elaborateness of the conceit once again filters away the cinematic occlusion, and you have the play.
Overall, and this is the saddest part, this is Beckett introduced to the younger generation in much the same way it has come to know Tomorrowland: as a digital representation. Let’s call a spade a spade. This is Beckett made to front for the new Irish economy. Notably, the sound wants improvement. Nevertheless, and I say this full of misgivings, you have Beckett in these films, not in a definitive film essence but transmuted through the portals of cinema into a dramatic representation on film. And that, viewer, is just enough to be getting on with.
Waiting for Godot
Beckett labored no end to make the play suitable for actors in English, but the results are hampered as a rule by unwarranted interference from academic writers or critics.
For the benefit of actors, let us explain the play. It is in two acts, and expresses two movements. The two main characters occupy the stage; to them Pozzo and Lucky twice, once hopefully and once dejectedly. That is all.
That is the operative structure, the one whole solitary joke Beckett is trying to elicit. Careful attention to this will remedy the artlessness trumped into artiness that damages the play in performance.
The Marshall/Lahr/Kasznar production was solidly acted with a vaudeville flair, though Lucky‘s part may be said to have been treated to effects rather than as one. Donald Moffatt and Dana Elcar played Laurel & Hardy in the actual desert, making one wish to see them in a telefilm of Mercier & Camier, if that were possible.
This production is an eyeopener. It is neither well directed nor well performed, which often amounts to the same thing. Be that as it may, the actors are Irish (you may have seen an Irish production before, and had your eyes opened). No doubt En attendant Godot plays well in French; it can be done successfully in American English. In “Anglo-Irish,” real difficulties melt away, and you are watching Captain Boyle and Joxer in Juno and the Paycock (oh, that Hitchcock might have directed this).