Film - Notfilm


Steve Taylor-Bryant watches the visual essay about Samuel Beckett’s only motion picture as he takes on Notfilm from the Dare category of the BFI London Film Festival…

The word ‘essay’ tends to put me off things. I am not the greatest student, I study things I like and try and retain the information as best I can as age attacks my memory but, outside of writing notes for articles, I very rarely do anything else studious. Essays frighten me. They are long, and often long winded, and remind me of the days at school I didn’t enjoy. I am also not the best person for talking about playwrights. I attend the theatre sporadically but couldn’t break down for you what I watched or why in the way that seems to come easily for me in film and television. I had heard of Samuel Beckett before Notfilm but couldn’t name one of his plays. I had heard of Buster Keaton before Notfilm and his part of the documentary I was looking forward to.

I enjoyed the parts of Ross Lipman’s film that I thought I would. I loved the ‘behind the scenes’ stories of things going wrong, of Beckett and Keaton not getting on, and I loved the archive footage. Unfortunately though that was it. However this is not the fault of the filmmaker. The film works and I think in front of the right audience will be lauded. I just don’t think I’m the audience. This wasn’t a film about the making of a film and, apart from the odd moment, gave me nothing to get to grips with. This is all my fault and shows my weakness as a reviewer of culture. I should know more about Samuel Beckett and, if I was a fan or student of the body of work, then I’m sure Notfilm would have been enthralling and possibly important. I got a bit lost during the film, finding the descriptions of what Beckett was trying to achieve a little above my head.

Notfilm is one for fans of the creatives involved. Notfilm is possibly an important film for those who study the history of cinema and the pitfalls of filmmaking. The film isn’t for a casual viewer who doesn’t really understand the source material, as the film presumes you already know things and continues on that basis, which isn’t inclusive for those who don’t. It really is an essay, it is made by people who know what they are talking about and it is aimed at those who are like them. If you are a fan of Samuel Beckett you will probably love Notfilm, if you aren’t in any way a student then it’s not for you.
Image - Kickstarter.

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