Friday, 23 September 2011

Friday Night Film: Bartleby

'Bartleby' is an interesting film which has only recently re-emerged after forty years of (undeserved) obscurity. It tells of a languid and colourless young man who finds employment at a small accountant's office. At first he works conscientiously but, inexplicably, one day refuses to check a balance sheet when asked, simply saying that he would 'prefer not to'.

Within a short period of time Bartleby (who is living on the premises without permission) has withdrawn from work entirely, answering all reasonable requests with the same simple refusal: 'I prefer not to'. What is particularly odd is that Bartleby is not defiant in his resistance, he is almost entirely passive. When not staring blankly out of a window, he is walking the streets of the city, a meaningless figure in an enormous and unsympathetic landscape in which he has no part to play.

A recurring shot: little man in a big world...

...reduced to the status of an insect.





'Bartleby' is an oddly affecting film, melancholic and abstract. At the heart of the story, the title character remains unknowable: is he a depressive? A lunatic? Is his inaction a protest - or desperation? What else could have been done? I could go on - but I prefer not to.

1 comment:

  1. Another lost wonder from Britain (well, London really) on the cusp of the 70s. Haven't seen it in 28 years but recall it as melancholy and maddening. Got the music somewhere - very nice.