mins, rated M 15+, opening in cinemas in Sydney on 20 March and
Melbourne on 27 March 2003, other cities to follow
Rated - SIMMERING
Tape is a filmed version of a one-act stage play written by Stephen
Berber. It is a three-hander staring Ethan Hawke (Dead Poet’s
Society, Great Expectations), Uma Thurman (Dangerous Liaisons, Pulp
Fiction, The Golden Bowl) and Robert Sean Leonard (Dead Poet’s Society,
Much Ado About Nothing). The film takes place entirely within one
room and there are no characters apart from the three stars.
The film-makers, including Director Richard Linklater (Dazed and
Confused, Waking Life) have chosen to film on digital video, and in
real time. This gives the film a rough, grainy look which seems
to suit the grungy setting – a room in a “Motor Palace” in Lansing
Michigan, where the three characters, Vince (Hawke), Jon (Leonard,
looking like a young Sam Shepard) and Amy (Thurman) meet to reminisce
about their high school days a decade ago.
Tape explores the phenomena of memory and perception. Each
character has their own version of what happened one night, 10 years
ago. Vince, a small-time drug dealer who seems never to have gown
up, confronts Jon, now an aspiring film-maker. Vince questions
him about what happened the night Jon dated Vince’s girlfriend Amy.
Vince badgers Jon about the details of that night, framing his question
in many different ways. It is a masterly cross-examination.
Eventually Jon concedes that: “By applying excessive linguistic
pressure, I persuaded her to have sex with me.” From that
concession, it is only a short step for Jon to admit to raping Amy,
using physical force. Vince then reveals that he has taped that
confession. But when Amy arrives, she doesn’t see the events of
that night in quite the same way…
Tape asks the question: if you do not remember or perceive events
as happening a certain way, does that mean they did not happen?
Lawyers, of course, are familiar with this phenomenon: that the same
events can be seen and interpreted in many different ways. This
idea has been pursued in film before, notably in Rashomon (Kurosawa,
1951). Judges struggle with the problem every day: a witness
honestly gives one version of an event or conversation that took place
in the past, but it is only one version, and is it the true one?
Director Linklater makes sure there are no distractions from the text
and the performances. Each of the three young actors gets a
chance to shine in this simple, but fascinating, film, which asks the
age-old question “What is truth”?
© Michèle M Asprey 2003
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