Directed by Bertrand Tavernier (France/West Germany, 1980, 130 min.). In English, French and German with English subtitles. 35mm.

Bertrand Tavernier (My Journey Through French Cinema) directs this dark drama set in the not-so-distant future, when sophisticated medicine has all but eliminated disease and made premature death a rarity. As a result, society has developed a fascination with death that TV producer Vincent Ferriman (Stanton) plans to capitalize on by producing a TV show that gives viewers a front row seat to the dying days of Katherine Mortenhoe (Romy Schneider), a novelist with a rare terminal illness. Ferriman chooses a cameraman named Roddy (Harvey Keitel) to shoot the show, but not with an ordinary camera; Roddy is to have microscopic cameras implanted in his eyes to eliminate the necessity of an invasive camera crew. Katherine, who wants nothing to do with the project, goes on the run with Roddy on her tail—and the whole world watching.

Despite the outlandishness of this premise, fans of Tavernier’s work won’t be surprised to learn that Death Watch isn’t remotely campy but incredibly restrained, evoking Andrei Tarkovsky’s starkly beautiful cinematography. The color green pervades every frame of the film, from the turquoise glow of a TV screen to Schneider’s olive-colored eyes to the green of the Scottish hills where much of the film takes place. Stanton’s uncharacteristic but convincing turn as a hotshot producer rounds out the long list of reasons why this curiosity is well worth a watch.

In the month of December, bring a ticket stub from any December MFA film to the Coolidge Corner Theater for a $3 discount on regularly priced feature films, subject to availability.

Also screening on December 22 and 23. See all showtimes

Watch the trailer


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