Wednesday, June 3, 2009

THE BED SITTING ROOM (Richard Lester, 1970, UK) The British analogy to Kubrick’s masterpiece DR. STRANGELOVE, a transmogrifying satire concerning the mass-murder of Nuclear Holocaust and the madness of an escalating Cold War Arms Race. Twenty survivors haunt the bleak and desolate landscape of Britain after the “unnamed event”: each unable to articulate the horror of this explosive atrocity. These men and women stomp through the debris of a past civilization but keep their British conceit alive: they talk about retaliatory strikes; the police must keep them moving so they make difficult targets for the enemy, the BBC must air the nightly news, and one man must power the entire subway system by riding his bicycle. This inane dedication is the very thesis of self-destruction, as a society subsumes its people and become a larger predatory organism, devouring morality and human essence. Soon, the fallout begins to strangely affect people: one man transforms into a small room, one woman a cupboard, another becomes a parrot, and one woman remains pregnant for 18 months before giving birth to an unseen monstrosity. Director Richard Lester’s burlesque of tragedy condemns the “nuclear family” and the religion that supports it, while reflecting the absurdity of war through a filtered lens of saturated colors. The comedy is played strictly straight and the laughs are nervous reactions as the truth swims close to the surface scum of this plausible future. There is no happy ending for a world past the eve of destruction; only wish fulfillment as green fields and a happy newborn seem to indicate. The film ends with swelling national pride while reciting God Bless Mrs. Ethel Shroake: after all, the Empire must go on. (B)

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