Monday, 29 April 2013


Death has always fascinated filmmakers! The French film director Bertrand Tavernier (Princess of Montpensier 2010), a self professed sci-fi addict, with the help of screenwriter David Rayfiel has adapted David Compton’s novel The Unsleeping Eye, also known as The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe, into a feature film. Deathwatch (1980) is set in the near future where disease has all but been eradicated and people generally only die of old age. When it is discovered that Katherine Mortenhoe (Romy Schneider[1]) has an incurable disease TV producer Vincent Ferriman (Harry Dean Stanton) decides to make a live TV reality programme covering the last days of Katherine’s life and her subsequent death. Offered a large sum of money she signs a contract that will make her a celebrity and a media star. But she has second thoughts and goes on the run with an acquaintance called Roddy (Harvey Keitel) who unbeknown to her works for the TV company and has undergone a surgical procedure to implant a camera and transmitter behind his eye’s!
Romy Schneider with Harvey Keitel...
......and here with Harry Dean Stanton
Premiered in France in 1979 and made in eight weeks this strange film has a mainly French crew, American and European actors and was filmed in Scotland, a lot of the time in Glasgow because of its Orwellian type locations including Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow Cathedral, the former Queens Dock and the City Chambers.  It also stars Swedish actor Max von Sydow as Katherine’s husband Gerald and French actress Therese Liotard as Tracy.[2] With its Big Brother scenario it predates modern reality TV and also questions the medias role in society and how privacy can be steadily eroded. The two real positive things about the movie are Romy Schneider’s fine acting and the striking Scottish locations. Little seen in the UK it was re-released in a digital restored print in 2012 but a curio that I’m not quite sure works. Perhaps a second look would help?

The Orwellian look of Glasgow?

[1] Romy Schneider’s son David appears in the film as the young boy playing with a ball in the park. It was this 14 year old that died from a tragic accident in 1981 and 10 months later Romy was found dead!

[2] Because Therese Liotard could not speak English Tavernier got Julie Christie to voice her part.

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