Film, 1965

Directed by Alan Schneider and starring Buster Keaton, Film is Samuel Beckett’s only screenplay. Written in 1963, it was filmed in New York in the summer of 1964. Fond of experimentation, instead of dialogue Beckett incorporated a single sound, a subtle ‘ssshhh’, throughout the film. A male character played by Buster Keaton hurries along a practically deserted street, avoiding all human contact. He wears a hat and covers his face with a handkerchief. After entering through the doorway of a building, he climbs up the stairs and opens the door to a room that might be his own. Once inside, he systematically erases anything that relates to the world outside. He draws the curtains, covers the mirror, throws out the cat and the dog, covers the birdcage and the fishbowl and tears up all the photographs of the past. Meanwhile, the sound, that subtle ‘ssshhh’, persists throughout the film like the conscience of the protagonist, an inner voice that never leaves us.

Seemingly a comedy, with the odd wink at film noir, Film addresses the philosophical problem of perception and self-perception, or inner perception. It is in fact a staging of George (Bishop) Berkeley’s axiom Esse est percipi. Advocating the proposition ‘to be is to be perceived’, the Anglo-Irish philosopher reduced reality to phenomena of consciousness. We will never know whether an object is intrinsically blue, all we can know is that the object is perceived by our mind as blue. Even while erasing our perception of the outside world, as the film protagonist does, our conscience, that inner sound that is always with us, continues to exist. With great economy of resources, Film manages to recreate Beckett’s particular universe, typical of his theatre plays and novels.

Film received the Film Critics' Prize at the 1965 Venice Film Festival, the Special Prize at the 1966 Oberhausen Festival and the Special Jury Prize at the 1966 Tours Festival.

Technical details

Original title:
Registration number:
Beckett, Samuel
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
Object type:
Audiovisual recording
16 mm film transferred to video, b/w, silent, 20 min 15 s - Produced and distributed by Barnet Rosset
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
© * Evergreen Review Inc. *
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Samuel Beckett "Film", 1965 (filmstill)
Samuel Beckett "Film", 1965 (filmstill)
Samuel Beckett "Film", 1965 (filmstill)
Samuel Beckett "Film", 1965 (filmstill)


Antoni Llena talks about Samuel Beckett's "Film"