Film (1981). Memorial Films/National Film Finance Corporation/EMI. Directed by David Gladwell. Written by Kerry Crabbe, Gladwell, based on The Memoirs of a Survivor (1974) by Doris Lessing. Cast includes Julie Christie, Christopher Guard, Debbie Hutchings and Leonie Mellinger. 115 minutes. Colour.
Amid Near-Future scenes of urban squalor in Western London a middle-aged woman (Christie) observes (mostly peering round a lace curtain) increasing dereliction and social breakdown in the wake of some unexplained catastrophe. She sometimes seems to penetrate a wall at which she often stares, finding herself invisible amid the life of a late-Victorian family in comfortable circumstances. Given a teenage girl (Mellinger) to care for in the real world, she watches her mature into the efficient partner and mistress of an idealistic young man who runs a community centre for abandoned children. When urban life becomes almost intolerable, she leads these people through the wall into the Parallel World of her dreaming. In the source novel, the inner life of the protagonist, permeated by Sufistic meditation, is central, but here, through a savage reductionism, its visual equivalent is given by mere cameos of stable but emotionally disabling Victorian life. Christie's fine performance as the almost unspeaking observer is, through no fault of hers, deeply uncinematic. [PN]
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