Insignificance and bending the language of cinema / time and space

  • Insignifance-1985 film-Nicolas Roeg-Theresa Russell-Criterion Collection-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity

    Now, Nicolas Roeg’s 1985 Insignificance – what a fine celluloid tale.

    I think I first saw it back when, not long after it had been made – a fair few years ago – and rewatching it recently I was just as taken by it as I was then.

    It concerns the 1950s set story of a somewhat iconic female movie star – known only as The Actress – who visits a somewhat iconic thinker – known only as The Professor in his hotel room, to discuss life and the theory of relativity.


    Along the way it takes in McCarthy-esque trials, Mr Tony Curtis as a flop-sweating politician (The Senator), The Actresses husband (The Ball Player), science, pogroms, peace, war – all the little questions.

    It is wonderfully accessible, entertaining and looks just beautiful, with Theresa Russell, who plays The Actress, capturing the breathy iconography and shimmering screen sensuality of her character just so; this is a flight of fancy, a playing with instantly recognisable images and tropes from the past and cinema’s history not to present a simulacra of times gone by but to create something new.

    Insignifance-1985 film-Nicolas Roeg-Theresa Russell-Criterion Collection-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-2

    Insignifance-1985 film-Nicolas Roeg-Criterion Collection-Afterhours Sleaze and DignityAlong which lines, Nicolas Roeg said at the time:

    If the grammar of cinema is at all changed or dented, it’s resented far more than in other mediums.

    During its 110 minutes, Insignificance takes the grammar and language of celluloid on a playful – although not always light in tone – journey,

    This is defiantly explorative cinema and in many ways it feels like a film of the type that rarely now gets made and certainly if it does, it would be unlikely to have a relatively mainstream release and stars of a certain calibre attached to it.

    To be a video-phile, Insignificance is available on a lovely transfer via the Criterion Collection (though you will need a way to play multi-region Blurays if you’re watching it on this side of the pond).

    Peruse that and its various other disc encasings here.


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