Response to “Your last breath” post:
Do we always need an explanation? A reason behind what seems uknown, or simply challenging? Place everything in order, in a frame… space and time.
Modern critics have tended to see Breath as being about the archetypal Beckett subject: the relative shortness and pointlessness of life itself. The simplicity is symmetrical recalling Pozzo’s poignant comment in Waiting for Godot: “They give birth astride a grave, the light gleams an instant and then it is night once more.” Others have been less charitable, thinking of it as a weak joke.
“The gaze is an integral factor in much of Beckett’s later drama, including his Film (1963) and television dramas, which are, of course, highly visual forms. The prototype for his dramatic use of the gaze was the ‘play’ Breath.”
“It is now clear that its main interest is that it points forward to the miniature dramas of the seventies. This is not so much because of its actual brevity, as because of its meticulous interplay of sound and silence, its balanced variations in lighting strength, its formal symmetry, and its use of amplified sound.”
Beckett himself described the piece “in a version of the French translation Souffle, as a ‘farce in five acts’. Its humour stems largely from the way it deliberately fails to satisfy audience expectations.” James Knowlson believes that Beckett “intended his sketch to be an ironic comment on what was to follow in Tynan’s show.”
(Tynan had asked Beckett to write a brief skit for an erotic review. At the first production, his staging was altered to make the work fit in with the somewhat risque nature of the revue by adding naked bodies to the rubbish, suggesting that the work was about sexual intercourse. In one of his few displays of public anger, Beckett called Tynan a ‘liar’ and a ‘cheat’, prompting Tynan to send a formal notice through his lawyers that he was not responsible for the travesty, which he claimed was due to others.)
In the filmed version directed by artist Damien Hirst as part of the Beckett on Film project “the debris features hospital and medical waste.” Hirst says: “When I was asked to direct this film, I read the text and thought it was incredibly precise and strict. While preparing to shoot, I kept reading the text over and over and what focused me was Beckett’s direction ‘hold for about 5 seconds’. That was when I realised that Beckett had this massive sense of humour.”