Death Watch [Blu-Ray] Bertrand Tavernier

Death Watch [Blu-Ray] Bertrand Tavernier
Bertrand Tavernier's Death Watch is about a man, Roddy (Harvey Keitel), who has cameras implanted in his eyes so he can follow a dying woman, Katherine Mortenhoe (Romy Schneider), and record her ongoing death for a television program. The fact that this film was made in 1980 means its storyline is "prescient," and it "foreshadows" the wave of trauma-porn one can catch on TLC every weeknight. There's an element of satire to this narrative, but even the ethically bankrupt network executive behind the show (Harry Dean Stanton) is sadly aware of his failure as a human being. Instead, the film is more about the effects of modern technology and medicine on the body. While Katherine's is ravaged by an unnamed illness, Roddy has to deal with the effects of his surgery. If his eyes lack a light source for more than a few minutes, he will go blind, so he's forced to take pills that prevent him from sleeping and he carries a flashlight at all times. Given the risk, it seems like a quite a burden, but when asked why he did it, Roddy gives a surprisingly sensible answer: "Whatever I see anything beautiful ― a kid, adventurous, brave, reckless, funny, unfair, mysterious, terrifying ― I just watch it and it's on film forever." Although made in 1980, Death Watch bears a resemblance to the Cronenberg films of the late '80s and early '90s (The Fly, Videodrome, Dead Ringers). It's filmed in a similarly cold, austere fashion and has to do with the interaction of technology and humanity. But where Cronenberg externalizes psychological fears by visualizing them in grotesque, physical modifications of the body, Tavernier internalizes. The effects of technology are seen only through their psychological impact on the characters. The Blu-Ray disc is pretty bland, the only feature being a gallery of set photos, but Pierre William Glenn's atmospheric cinematography of gloomy Glasgow and the surrounding countryside is greatly aided by this HD transfer. The film features a supporting cast of recognizable character actors (Keitel, Stanton and Max Von Sydow), but it's anchored by the affecting presence of French actress Romy Schneider. Despite its science fiction trappings, this is definitely an art film, and it's far more languorously paced than the storyline would suggest. It is also, however, a really good art film, one that's highly recommended. (Shout! Factory)