Author Topic: Figures in a Landscape (1970)  (Read 880 times)

mothman

  • I don't know why
Figures in a Landscape (1970)
« on: February 10, 2021, 12:07:58 AM »
This was a Lockdown 1 watch for me. I’d wanted to see it for years - despite knowing very little about it. Why? Well, bizarrely enough, my mum told me about it, years ago; I don’t know why she did. I sort-of want to think it was while we were discussing Southern Comfort, but that could be a totally different conversation. I recall her saying she thought it was very eerie and disturbing.

And it is. Two men, apparently British, plated by Robert Shaw and Malcolm McDowell, flee across an unnamed land, pursued by unidentified soldiers and a helicopter. But we don’t know anything about them, why they’re there, where they are, when it’s set. They appear to be soldiers (the book it’s based on, by Barry England, makes it more explicit they are), so are they PoWs? And if so, in what war?

The two men, McConnachie and Ansell respectively, have a constantly shifting dynamic that adds to the unease. Shaw is the older, more commanding presence but McDowell is no pushover. When the former kills a goatherd for no real gain, the latter is upset; but adding to the sense of disconnect from reality, there’s no real sense that a line has been crossed like if, say, an escapee in WW2 Germany had murdered a civilian.

They’re not the only characters though. The menacing helicopter is one - but years before the lorry in Spielberg’s Duel or the car in, er, The Car. And above all, the landscape is itself a character. You really get a sense of the distance they travel, the terrain (which varies intensely; it was filmed in Spain) they cross. Two years ago we drove to Croatia for a holiday; the way they head for the mountains which contain the border reminded me of the vistas we saw in Austria, Slovenia and Croatia.

This is real “no context” filmmaking. We don’t know when, where, or why. The helicopter and the mention of contraceptive pills puts it after a certain date, whereas the soldiers having bolt-action rifles (when most militaries have transitioned to assault rifles in the past fifty years) conversely dates it. Ansell was a shop clerk before presumably joining or being drafted into the army; is this some then-future war? A world war 3? There are neutral countries - like the one they hope to flee to the border of. It put me in mind of brief mentions of a historical WW3 in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, like the remnants of two long-lost divisions of British paratroopers routed and taken prisoner in Asia in that novel. Also, in the source novel they call the soldiers “Goons;” whereas some have drawn Vietnam allusions (“Gooks”) from that, it also was the name British PoWs gave to prison guards in WW2 camps like Stalag Luft 3. WW2 was very much a recent memory in 1970; Christ, now, that’s how long it’s been since Euro ‘96...

Chedney Honks

  • When life gives u no hair, ball spin
Re: Figures in a Landscape (1970)
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2021, 07:24:06 AM »
This sounds intriguing, what a great concept and cast. I'll definitely keep an eye out for it. Only available on imported Region A Blu-ray so fairly expensive for a blind buy but hopefully I can find a copy in the wild.

Bad Ambassador

  • Sit down, Mario!
Re: Figures in a Landscape (1970)
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2021, 09:05:43 AM »

Re: Figures in a Landscape (1970)
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2021, 07:49:39 PM »

Bumping this thread as a recommendation to watch Figures In A Landscape.

I picked it up as part of a rare collection of VHS tapes about 15 years ago, titled as The Hunted, watched it knowing nothing about it and was blown away. Even before reading about the subtext, symbolism and the fact that it was directed by exiled film maker Joseph Losey, I knew there was more to it than just a film about two men on the run.

Well worth a watch on the YouTube link in the above post.

Re: Figures in a Landscape (1970)
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2021, 12:08:57 PM »
Sounds interesting. I mostly associate Losey with his Harold Pinter collaborations and similar films, mostly about people trapped in small spaces or confined social situations, or court, while this sounds a much more cinematic, open-air film. But actually looking at IMDb, Losey did a huge variety of films in pretty much every genre (from spy spoof Modesty Blaise to all-out horror to neo-noir.)

It also sounds a bit like Jan Nemec's excellent Czech New Wave film Diamonds of the Night (1964) which is about two teenagers on the run in World War Two, but avoids almost all historical reference in place of immediacy: people running, hiding, looking for food. Could be entirely different though.

The Mollusk

  • Yeah, you better gasp collectively
Re: Figures in a Landscape (1970)
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2021, 09:34:00 AM »
This is deffo going on my watchlist, sounds like my sort of thing. Cheers for the reccs.

Bad Ambassador

  • Sit down, Mario!
Re: Figures in a Landscape (1970)
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2021, 09:36:27 AM »
Remember reading about it in Total Film decades ago, on the page where people could write in with vague memories of films and the researchers would find out what it was. Someone remembered men being chased across the desert by a helicopter. I covered the film for a podcast last year, and liked it very much.

mothman

  • I don't know why
Re: Figures in a Landscape (1970)
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2021, 04:51:20 PM »
Odd coincidence: your saying that reminded me of the thread I made on The Quiet Earth, which mentioned its regular appearances in the IMDb’s what’s-that-film page. And in that thread, someone mentions Night Of The Comet - another Lockdown 1 (re)watch.

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