Pinter’s The Homecoming

25 May

The video above is from the movie directed by Peter Hall and shows Ian Holm (brilliant!) and Vivian Merchant, Harold Pinter’s wife at the time. The DVD edition I watched comes from Umbrella Entertainment and features a wonderful interview with Peter Hall, a must in itself for anyone at all interested in theatre and film. You will find many enthusiatic comments about the performances in Peter Hall’s film in the IMDB, linked in this paragraph, and as you may judge even from the video here they are well deserved. Disturbing still, even forty years after The Homecoming first appeared on stage.

For the record — and it is a long video around 45 minutes — here is Pinter’s famous 2005 Nobel Prize lecture.

The lecture is transcribed here.

…In the play that became The Homecoming I saw a man enter a stark room and ask his question of a younger man sitting on an ugly sofa reading a racing paper. I somehow suspected that A was a father and that B was his son, but I had no proof. This was however confirmed a short time later when B (later to become Lenny) says to A (later to become Max), ‘Dad, do you mind if I change the subject? I want to ask you something. The dinner we had before, what was the name of it? What do you call it? Why don’t you buy a dog? You’re a dog cook. Honest. You think you’re cooking for a lot of dogs.’ So since B calls A ‘Dad’ it seemed to me reasonable to assume that they were father and son. A was also clearly the cook and his cooking did not seem to be held in high regard. Did this mean that there was no mother? I didn’t know. But, as I told myself at the time, our beginnings never know our ends…

It’s a strange moment, the moment of creating characters who up to that moment have had no existence. What follows is fitful, uncertain, even hallucinatory, although sometimes it can be an unstoppable avalanche. The author’s position is an odd one. In a sense he is not welcomed by the characters. The characters resist him, they are not easy to live with, they are impossible to define. You certainly can’t dictate to them. To a certain extent you play a never-ending game with them, cat and mouse, blind man’s buff, hide and seek. But finally you find that you have people of flesh and blood on your hands, people with will and an individual sensibility of their own, made out of component parts you are unable to change, manipulate or distort.

So language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time.

But as I have said, the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot…

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed…

When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror – for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.

He has some tough things to say in that lecture about the current state of the world. It may indeed be said that some of this speech is overstated, but there is still more truth in it than in a thousand and one official utterances from our own leaders.

Some of Pinter’s reflections — especially those on South and Central America — may be seen as a contribution to a more nuanced view of the “theocracy” versus “secularism” debate.

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Posted by on May 25, 2007 in Cultural and other, Films, DVDs, TV



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