Great transition from play to film, awesome resource for the
fra7299 | California, United States | 06/13/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Director Volker Schlondorff's version of the Arthur Miller play really hits on all cylinders. The mood, pacing, characterization and accuracy of Death of a Salesman are masterfully blended into a well-thought production. One underappreciated aspect is successfully incorporating a play into a film. Many times we have read a play only to watch a film version seem trite, forced or disappointingly unable to make the transition; Death of a Salesman doesn't have this problem, as many significant scenes, such as Biff's epiphany and confrontation with Willy, keep their power. Also, the key quotes from characters are given their moment. Unlike many other reviewers, I haven't seen the Broadway Production of Death of a Salesman, so I can't compare this one to any other production, but I think this version will hold up nicely to other successful versions.
As far as the story itself, Death of a Salesman is a classic case for the failure of the American Dream. Willy Loman, an aging traveling salesman, is a tragic hero who loses touch with reality as he wavers between the present, 1942, and the past, 1928. Willy's tragic flaw is that he has false values that he takes as the proponents to success. Not only this, but he pushes these values onto his two sons, Happy and Biff. Willy's false belief that success in life can be attributed to personal appearance, being liked, and connections lays foundations for present day failures. We come to understand that Willy's glowing vision of the past is only an exaggeration for his idealistic hopes. Willy not only has visions of the past, but seeks the answers to life from his dead brother Ben, who, unlike Willy, was a success early in life. Much of Willy's success as a salesman is exaggerated; his false pride gets in the way of any transformation. Happy and Biff, because of Willy's outlook, are also lost in the world, lack identity, and represent failures. Willy has inflated Biff's ego to the point where Biff lacks responsibility, and, as a result, Biff can't hold down a job. The film investigates the negative aspects of having wrong values, and how it can destroy hopes of the American Dream. Although Willy's state of mind is quite fractured, Linda (his wife) and the two sons, for the most part, do not attempt to confront him or his suicidal tendencies, ignoring the problem and thus emphasizing false perception. Biff, however, is the one character who finally wakes up and challenges Willy's views, and "sees the light" about the lie he's been living. Death of a Salesman proposes that having the wrong dreams can lead to tragic results.
A great job was done assembling a cast that really made this play come to life. Dustin Hoffman really gives the edginess to Willy Loman, yet he also makes Willy a sympathetic character, one who you feel sorry for by the time the credits are rolling. The other actors also do solid work. A young John Malkovich does a commendable job as Biff Loman, the one who Willy has high hopes for.
Also included within the DVD is Private Confessions, a documentary which sheds some light on background into the play and the idea of the traveling salesman. If you haven't read the play, this might be a good way to begin before viewing the film.
Over all, this is an excellent job of bringing Arthur Miller's play to life. This is also is an exceptional resource for either a teacher or student who wants to use the film to help with the study of the play, which can be confusing to read with the various time shifts.
Fantastic production! Definitely recommended!
More deranged than guilty
Jacques COULARDEAU | OLLIERGUES France | 06/10/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I will not insist on the plot which is so well-known that to ignore it is a proof of incompetent a-social behavior. I will insist here on the performance of Dustin Hoffman, hence on the particular rendition of this play that is kept as a play with real sound stages like in the old days of the thirties or forties. Dustin Hoffman makes this Willy Loman a lot worse than I was used to read it. He is shown, and as soon as his prime, at least, when his sons are in high school, some seventeen years before, he is shown was I saying as a completely paranoid and deranged person. Not deranged because of some kind of gene. But deranged because first of all he got and kept a job even when he was failing, though he was not done for that job. A salesman has to be a born hypocrite and has to be a conqueror: any argument is good provided it brings in the proper signature. So he is rather misplaced and his derangement comes from that misplacement. What's more he was discovered in his total hypocrisy, though in no way commercial and hence unacceptable from the salesmanship point of view since this woman was bringing him nothing but was costing him a lot, by his own son who was coming after him to get the help he needed, but a help that could only be effective if it were based on the truth, truthfulness, confidence, trust. And Willy Loman was lower than low at that moment. It threw his son into some totally absurd and paranoid a-social attitude, a derangement of its own due to the misplacement of his trust in his own father. When that trust was placed back where it belonged, that is to say in the trashcan, the son only had his eyes to cry, his fingers to steal, his flesh to suffer, in prison if necessary. This film pushes the character of Willy Loman slightly too far and his derangement explains then his suicide: he completely lost control of himself. But I would assert the idea that this is not true of that character who in fact commits suicide when he discovers and finally understands that he had not forgotten that silly episode of his son discovering him in the cradle of the revolution with another woman than his mother. I would like to believe that this last act in his life is not the result of his derangement but of his last flash of guilt for having failed and cheated so many people, in a word a suicide of divine justice coming from the last flash of consciousness of that man who might have been able to be anything but a loser. Even if I disagree with the vision of Schlondorff, I must say the rendering of the character, the acting of the actor and at times the overbearing-ness of the over-acting of the actor is absolutely remarkable and logical and of one piece from beginning to end. That man is not old. That man is not worn out. That man is not vain. That man is not a perambulating lie. That man is sick in his head, crazy, deranged to the extreme point of insanity and thus extremely dangerous since he projects his hatred of that unbearable situation onto everyone around him, even, and particularly, those who love him.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
3 stars out of 4
One-Line Film Reviews | Easton, MD | 02/05/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Bottom Line:
Though John Malkovich looks a little too old, and I still maintain that Brian Dennehy made a better Willy Loman, this filmed version of the mid-80s revival of Death of a Salesman is still well-worth recommending on the strength of Miller's writing and the caliber of the acting."
A piece of art
H. Serrano | Costa Rica | 07/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Death of a salesman is one of the best samples of the american drama that reflects the real life of the dream that is not even reached by american people.
I love Dustin Huffman play but all the characters are amazingly builded which make the sense of being at the teather."