First there was Death Watch. Then, there was Big Brother.
The Cornerhouse has done it again, re-releasing a cult classic which has mysteriously been lost amongst the giants of the cinematic cult scene. Bertrand Tavernier’s Death Watch (1980) is a hybrid of sci-fi noir which has been digitally restored and brought to our local screens. Based on David. G. Crompton’s novel The Unsleeping Eye (1973), Tavernier tells the twisted story of a reality-TV programme. This programme documents the deterioration of terminally ill Katherine (Romy Schneider) by Roddy (Harvey Keitel) through literally having cameras implanted in his eyes.
It seems on first glance that we may have seen this one before. From a sceptical perspective, Death Watch on the surface could be easily viewed as a sinister and ‘eerie’ twist on The Truman Show (1998). So much so that it does beg the question of whether we are now, in a way, desensitised to this theme of constant surveillance. However, Tavernier’s warped take on the novel is certainly not another poor excuse for a film, as to merely watch the demise of a character. There is no doubt that this cult movie will certainly be reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984 and, to an extent, the concept of the television series Big Brother.
However, give this a chance and be sure to witness an intense performance from Keitel. Tavernier’s gritty take on the novel, shot on the streets of Glasgow, will be beautifully gripping. This hidden, prescient gem should not go under the radar, as it is certainly worth a watch on the screen.