Video: excerpt from Endgame

(Michael Gambon as Hamm; David Thewlis as Clov; Jean Anderson as Nell; Charles Simon as Nagg)

From Stanley Cavell’s essay, “Ending the Waiting Game: A Reading of Beckett’s Endgame“:

The language sounds as extraordinary as its people look, but it imitates, as Chekhov’s does, the qualities of ordinary conversation among people whose world is shared–catching its abrupt shifts and sudden continuities; its shades of memory, regret, intimidation; its opacity to the outsider. It is an abstract imitation, where Chekhov’s is objective. (I do not say “realistic,” for that might describe Ibsen, or Hollywoodese, and in any case, as it is likely to be heard, would not emphasize the fact that art had gone into it.) But it is an achievement for the theater, to my mind, of the same magnitude. Not, of course, that the imitation of the ordinary is the only, or best, option for writing dialogue. Not every dramatist wants this quality; a writer like Shakespeare can get it whenever he wants it. But to insist upon the ordinary, keep its surface and its rhythm, sets a powerful device. An early movie director, René Clair I believe, remarked that if a person were shown a film of an ordinary whole day in his life, he would go mad. One thinks, perhaps, of Antonioni. At least he and Beckett have discovered new artistic resource in the fact of boredom; not as a topic merely, but as a dramatic technique. To miss the ordinariness of the lives in Endgame is to avoid the extraordinariness (and ordinariness) of our own. (p. 119)

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