The Designated Mourner
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Time Out saysThree people sit behind a desk: an old man (de Keyser), his daughter (Richardson), and his son-in-law (Nichols). They talk, not to each other, but to us, the audience. They reminisce about Judy's relationship with her father, a poet and dissident, and her husband Jack, who wilts under his own sense of intellectual inferiority. Gradually Jack takes centre stage to trace the contours of a narrative, the story of his failed marriage, his political and moral cowardice, his increasing alienation from the world of words and ideas. Hare's subtle, artful film of Wallace Shawn's play exists purely in that abstract, literary world - it is, defiantly, a piece of theatre, pared and minimalist. The film has something of the intimate quality of an actors' read through: what you lose in action, you gain in concentration and insight. Hare says the play is about 'the death of culture, the danger of culture becoming a minority pursuit', which obviously reflects his conviction that 'Keats is better than Dylan', highbrow better than lowbrow; certainly the film fulfils his own elitist criteria. Me? I could barely keep my eyes open.