'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Within a short period of time Bartleby (who is living on the premises without permission) has withdrawn from work entirely, answering all reasonable requests with the same simple refusal: 'I prefer not to'.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.