The ‘Beckett on Film’ Project

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The hugely ambitious Beckett on Film project gathered together 19 different directors to turn the 19 stage works written by Samuel Beckett into films. The range is vast—from the 45-second Breath to the two hours of his most famous play, Waiting for Godot—but all the works reflect Beckett’s penetrating obsessions with memory, regret, and the simple, excruciating experience of being. Not every film succeeds-—like all great theater, Beckett’s plays demand interaction with a live audience to express their full intent—and though scholars tout Beckett’s every word as genius, several works are slight (CatastropheOhio Impromptu, or What Where will leave many viewers unimpressed). But all the plays feature Beckett’s uniquely distilled language; the greatest of them—including Waiting for Godot (in which two tramps pass the time while they wait for someone who may never come), Endgame (in which a blind man and his lame servant bicker and joke as the world declines), and Play (in which a love triangle is bitterly recalled by two women and a man in urns)—are astonishing in both their potent humor and piercing grief.

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