|The DVD cover.|
But times have changed as I really like this type of play/film, and I still have an affinity with the sets. Unfortunately this type of thing has died out and they are very hard to find so it was with relish that I watched this. I'm not sure of the plays original length but this has been abridged from its television length. At 99 minutes it is like a full length film and I would liked to have seen it in its entirety even though what I saw was outstanding.
If you have never seen this type of film/play then what you get is a set like you would see on a stage and the actors act it out like a play whilst being filmed. Stage acting is a totally different skill to camera acting and the skill level on display here is phenomenal. John lee Cobb is sublime as Willy Loman, a man who is enduring a breakdown and has attempted several suicide attempts. For me he is the highlight and a good example of stage acting. His voice projection is wonderful and I loved how the sets are laid out for filming purposes so that the actors can move to each one seamlessly without a cut in the film.
There are cuts in the film as some sets are not central to the story and happen outside of the Loman house. You get the idea when you see an actor move from one narrative to another as they move past prop walls and windows that have another set in shadows behind them. I loved it visually and it brought back the wonder I had at this type of production as a boy. A good example is in one scene Willy goes into a bathroom and the viewer sees the back of the washbasin as if looking into the room instead of a conventional film where you are in there with him. It is wonderful stuff and the production value is extremely high which saw it win a very well deserved Emmy.
The cast is just superb and I was very, very surprised when a very young Gene Wilder walked on!! I couldn't believe my eyes! He doesn't have a big part but he was an actor I never took to and I was startled by how accomplished he was as a stage actor where he, like so many others, started his career. John Lee Cobb cannot be praised enough as Willy Lohman. He is a stage actor of real note and this is his role absolutely. Mildred Dunnard is superb to as Linda Lohman. She is a mousy woman who has suffered her husbands decline into depression for a long time and yet won't turn her back on him. The two sons are well played as well and I couldn't fault the cast at all.
It is an emotionally shattering play and the actors really engage the viewer and make them feel the pain of the story. I felt my self squirm at times as things got to close and real for comfort, but this is its strength as it is something that we can can all recognise. The film/play adaptation works well because Lohman talks to himself non stop and with television techniques the viewer gets to see through walls as his family listen to him. This same technique is used well to as Lohman looks back on his life through a series of flashbacks. Certain camera angles are used so as not to interrupt the actors movements and the skill of it all is just beyond mention. What television has done is give a continuity that the play couldn't as the curtain would have to closed so sets and clothes could be changed.
|Cover of the play's first edition.|
Click here for a synopsis and more on this very famous American play:
And here for a look at the DVD version of this fine television production: