Forsyth's most ambitious film disappeared after its disastrous US opening. Warners sat on it for a year, trying to figure out a recut which would make sense. They eventually gave the film back to the director who added Russell's voice-over narration as a sign of good faith. It's a difficult picture to get a handle on (five stories spanning 6,000 years): in each tale, Williams plays a human being (sic), Hector - a caveman, Roman slave, medieval traveller, 17th century aristocrat, and finally a contemporary New Yorker. The stories are low-key and deliberately anti-climactic, but they coalesce into a tender, contemplative whole that's profound and moving. While Hector may not be reincarnated, exactly, each story feeds on what has gone before, so that after losing his family in the Bronze Age, he's separated from them in every other tale. Other motifs recur: fear and anxiety, superstition and sacrifice; the nature of partnership, how men treat women (and other men) as chattels; the significance of water-crossings; the need and difficulty of filling other men's shoes; the abused integrity of a name. The studio was probably right: there is no general audience for this mid-life crisis of a movie, but it's singular and fascinating all the same.
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