EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE (director: Joseph Losey; screenwriters: Robert Shaw/based on a novel by Barry England; cinematographers: Henri Alekan/Peter Suschitzky/Guy Tabary; editor: Reginald Beck; music: Richard Rodney Bennett; cast: Robert Shaw (MacConnachie), Malcolm McDowell (Ansell), Pamela Brown (Widow), Henry Woolf (Helicopter Pilot), Christopher Malcolm (Helicopter Observer), Roger Lloyd-Pack (Soldier), Andrew Bradford (Soldier), Warwick Sims (Soldier); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John Kohn; CBS/Fox Video-PAL format DVD; 1970-UK)|
|"Pretentious and murky
thriller that is filled with symbols."
by Dennis Schwartz
It's based on the 1968
novel by Barry England, and reworked by star Robert
Shaw. American exile Joseph Losey ("The Prowler"/"The
Sleeping Tiger"/"The Big Night"), living in England,
directs this pretentious and murky thriller that is
filled with symbols. It might be good to look at, every mise en scène is a
sight to behold, but the story is slight and the characters are
too sketchy for us to be fully drawn to them.
In the summer, two English
prisoners escape from an unnamed European country's
prison (supposedly set in Spain) and while handcuffed
and in prison garb trek through the rugged desolate
terrain pursued by a dogged helicopter pilot and
soldiers on the ground. The middle-aged married family
man is the unpleasant know-it-all brutish prisoner,
MacConnachie (Robert Shaw), a man of instinctual
responses constantly berates the more rational
twenty-something former London department store clerk
Ansell (Malcolm McDowell) to keep up with
him or else he'll leave him. The two are always
antagonistic, for whatever unexplained reason, but
cling to each other out of desperation.
We never learn why the
seemingly apolitical prisoners were arrested in a
seemingly totalitarian country, and why the locals
help them get rifles, food, and clothes. After most of
the film is spent watching the escapees dodge the
stalking helicopter in a cat-and-mouse game, the men, now free
from being bound, reach the snowy mountain-top
frontier. Ansell chooses to safely cross over to
another country, while Mac loses his life shooting it
out with the helicopter pilot.
It's never clear what the
allegory means. It could be about a hopeless world
situation, the survival of the fittest, a lesson in
attaining manhood, about the corruption of mankind or
whatever. It plays out like a Kafka nightmare story.
Too much of the film
was too elusive for me to get into it, or really care
what it was supposed to be about. It's a pic one can get lost
in just as easily as the escapees were lost in the
landscape. That the long-winded, hamstrung, puzzling
pic somehow works for the viewer who can rid himself
of his sense of disbelief, is the most positive claim
I can make about its results.
REVIEWED ON 3/27/2013 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ