Film (film)

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Film is a film written by Samuel Beckett, his only screenplay. It was commissioned by Barney Rosset of Grove Press. Writing began on 5 April 1963 with a first draft completed within four days. A second draft was produced by 22 May and a forty-leaf shooting script followed thereafter. It was filmed in New York in July 1964.

Beckett’s original choice for the lead – referred to only as “O” – was Charlie Chaplin, but his script never reached him.[1] The director Alan Schneider was interested in Zero Mostel but he was unavailable. Beckett was “enthusiastically in favour” of Jack MacGowran as a replacement but he also became unavailable. James Karen, who was to have a small part in the film, talked constantly about the 68 year old Buster Keaton and persuaded Schneider to consider him when MacGowran’s circumstances changed.[2] Schneider credits Beckett himself with the suggestion however.[3]

The filmed version differs from Beckett's original script but with his approval since he was on set all the time, this being his only visit to the United States. The script printed in Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett (Faber and Faber, 1984) states:

It was remade by the British Film Institute (1979, 16 mm, 26 minutes) without Beckett’s supervision, as Film: a screenplay by Samuel Beckett. David Rayner Clark directed Max Wall.[5]

It first appeared in print in Eh Joe and Other Writings (Faber and Faber, 1967).



Throughout the first two parts almost everything we see is through the eye of the camera (designated in the script as E), although there are occasional moments when we see O's perception. In the third part we get much more of O’s perception of the room and its contents. In order to distinguish between the two perceptions, objects seen by O were shot through a lens-gauze, blurring his perception while E's perception was shot without gauze or filters, keeping the images sharp.

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