Film (1965) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A twenty-minute, almost totally silent film (no dialogue or music one 'shhh!') in which Buster Keaton attempts to evade observation by an all-seeing eye. But, as the film is based around Bishop Berkeley's principle 'esse est percipi' (to be is to be perceived), Keaton's very existence conspires against his efforts


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • An eye opens under a wrinkled eyelid. I assume it is the one healthy eye of The Man (Buster Keaton)

    Images of a wall. A man wearing a dark overcoat, a briefcase, a handkerchief hiding his face and a hat seems to be running away, we don't know from what. It looks like a war zone, with broken pieces of stone and brick on the floor.

    The Man bumps onto a female Passerby (Susan Reed) and a male Passerby who looks like a priest (James Karen). These two people seem to be sharing a newspaper. The Priest is going to scream because the Man keeps on going and the Priest's glasses have fallen off. However, the lady hushes him saying "Shhhhhh". So the two Passers-by stare at the Man, and they are horrified. They walk away hugging each other, probably giving each other courage.

    Finally, the Man enters a building. He seems to hesitate about going up or down the stairs. He checks his pulse.An Old Woman (Nell Harrison) is walking down the stairs with a basket full of flowers. She looks childish and fumbles with the bucket of flowers in spite of being very old. She looks at the Man and faints or dies. The Man finally runs up past her leaving her in the corridor.

    The Man enters a one-room flat and locks himself in. He checks his pulse again. It is a very poor bedroom,with broken walls, rags everywhere and no furniture... almost. The Man takes off the chief from his face and looks at a crude photograph of something - it looks like a totem to me. The Man surveys around: there is a fish in a fishbowl, a cat and a small dog in a basket.

    Hiding himself from we don't know what, the Man tries to draw the curtains, but they are filthy and full of holes. Hiding from the light of the sun, the Man covers a mirror with a black cloth. He looks at a parrot. The Man picks up t the cat and puts it out. Closing the door again, now he fetches the small dog and puts it out of the room, without realising that the cat has sneaked in again. He puts the out again, allowing the dog to come in again. He puts the dog out again, and the cat comes in. When the cat isout again, the dog comes in.When he is putting the dog out again, the cat comes in. This time he is more careful not to open the door too much. Now the basket is empty.

    He seems satisfied about it and locks the door. He picks up his briefcase and walks a little. The dark cloth over the mirror falls down, startling him.

    He stares at a rocking chair. In the end, the sits down and looks at the photograph of a voodoo doll. He tears the paper to pieces and stomps on it. Now there is a white square on the mainly dirty wall. He steps onto the torn pieces of paper of the doll.

    He sits down again, this time in front of the white square. He picks up his briefcase but the parrot distracts him. He puts his overcoat over the parrot jail.

    Now it is the fish the one which scares and distracts him. He spreads his overcoat and puts it over the fishbowl.

    He opens a big envelope from the briefcase with photographs of presumably his life: him as a baby with his parents, him as a child, him as a soldier with his own son, finally him as a broken adult with an eye patch - heis on his own and has a very serious face- . He tears all the photographs to pieces and checks his pulse.He rocks himself in the chair.

    The camera moves around him and that seems to startle him.

    The camera moves around once to show the derelict state of the room. It stops in front of the Man, who now seems to have fallen asleep.He wakes up startled, and looks at himself in terror.

    He hides his eyes with his hands. He looks again and sees his own one eye. He hides his face behind his hands once again, this time longer.

    Close-up of an eye and the eyelid going up and down.


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