Death Watch (12A)

Bertrand Tavernier, 129mins. Starring: Romy Schneider, Harvey Keitel, Harry Dean Stanton

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The Independent Culture

French auteur Bertrand Tavernier's 1980 Glasgow-set dystopian yarn (re-released in a restored version) is one of the director's most intriguing and idiosyncratic films.

Shot in widescreen, it has an epic quality that few British movies of its period match. The film is also prophetic in its anticipation of reality TV at its most vicious and intrusive.

Tavernier's casting is eclectic, combining Harvey Keitel (in full Method mode) with German film actress Romy Schneider, a sleazy-looking Harry Dean Stanton, Ingmar Bergman favourite Max von Sydow and (in a cameo as a chauffeur) a youthful, very trim Robbie Coltrane. Schneider plays a woman told she is terminally ill and offered a small fortune for her illness and death to be shown on TV.

Keitel is the opportunist with the camera implanted in his brain who films her as she roams across Glasgow and the Highlands. Tavernier eschews typical sci-fi conventions, foregrounding character and dialogue instead. Schneider brings a sensitivity and fierceness to her role as the victim/guinea pig that reminds you of Isabelle Huppert at her best.