The Dead View large image

Film Details

Directed by: John Huston

Produced: 1987

Countries & Regions: United Kingdom, United States

DVD Details

Certificate: U

Length: 80 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 10 April 2006

Cat No: 7952432

Languages(s): English
Interactive Menu
Screen ratio 1:1.78
Dolby Digital 2.0

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The Dead

Cast: Donal McCann , Anjelica Huston , Donal Donnelly , Frank Patterson , Marie Kean , Sean McClory , Ingrid Craigie , Helena Carroll , Cathleen Delany , Rachael Dowling , Maria McDermottroe

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John Huston’s final film, an adaptation of a James Joyce novella, takes place at Christmas in turn-of-the-century Dublin. To mark the... Read More




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John Huston’s final film, an adaptation of a James Joyce novella, takes place at Christmas in turn-of-the-century Dublin. To mark the occasion, two spinsters (Helena Carroll and Cathleen Delany) throw a party, inviting, amongst others, their nephew Gabriel (Donal McCann) and his wife Gretta (Anjelica Huston). During the course of the evening, a haunting rendition of an Irish lament has an overwhelming effect on Gretta, who is moved to remember a long-suppressed romance in her earlier years.

With its poetry recitals, musical interludes and

restrained political debate, The Dead is rich in

drawing room culture. And for a film so brief, its

recreation of an early twentieth century, upper class

Irish dinner party is deceptively leisurely. It seems

a world away from the director’s more grandiose

excesses (Moby Dick, The Red Badge of Courage, even

The Bible), yet it is a milieu John Huston conjures up

with agreeable assurance.

Huston was well known for his cigar chomping

ebullience and reckless appetite for adventure. But he

was also a man of refinement, a raconteur, and by the

time he made The Dead he was preparing for death

himself. (He needed lungfuls of oxygen from an onset

tank between takes). How fitting then that he created

a civilised wake of a film instead of a tired

throwback to his more energetic movies. For The Dead

is about remembering and lamenting - favourite songs,

respected actors, old friends and relatives. It may be

an anomalous ending to a long and rickety career, but

it is a remarkably dignified one.

As the dinner party closes, we are presented with a

sensitive vignette that brings into focus the tainted

marriage of Gretta and Gabriel (Angelica Huston and

Donal MacCann). Preparing for bed, a weeping Gretta

confesses her inability to forget a long-dead lover.

This is the sober aftermath to a tasteful evening’s

entertainment, the film’s raison d’etre, a poignant

reminder that all good things come to an end. “One by

one we are all becoming shades,” says a melancholy

Gabriel, staring out into the dark snowy night. As he

filmed this scene, no-one must have felt the sentiment

more strongly than Huston himself.

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