Noises Off… (1992) is one of the most hilarious movies I’ve seen. It was adapted from Michael Frayn’s popular play, and was directed by Peter Bogdanovich. I haven’t read the play, so cannot really compare the film with the original play. But first of all, since the play has this play-with-in-a-play structure, I would guess it is much more effective to present on the stage, since the metatheatrical works better in live performance. On the other hand, the director of the film version is very clever in using mirrored images to make up for the difference between the mediums. While the live performance allows the audience to see the whole backstage and all the actions that take turns to happen or even happens simultaneously, the camera moves from one action to another so that actions do not seem to happen simultaneously but one after another. However, the director employs the mirror so that we get to see the actions happening at the same time.
It was a very smartly written play. The play within this play is titled Nothing On, which implies that the real play happens off stage instead of on stage. And of course it corresponds with the title of the play—Nothing On vs. Noises Off. However, the play only allows us to see how the performance gets more and more messy as the tour goes on, and reaches a peak of chaos in Cleveland (poor Cleveland audience). At the end, we saw the order has been restored, the coupling between the cast members have changed, but the process of this development remains hidden from us. Reviewing the whole film, I found out that this development of relationship between the cast, who are the real characters in this play, is only subtly hinted in the growing mess of the performance. Therefore, it is really easy to miss all these subtle hints and get surprised and totally confused at the drastic change at the end. However, it is a real surprise for me to see that a farce could have so much subtlety.
Just as Lloyd, the director of Nothing On said: Doors and sardines, that is farce, that is the theater. That is life. Later in their life backstage, there is not only doors and sardines, but also whiskey and flowers. The sex farce all depends on the pace in which they move these objects.
As always, it is so pleasant to watch Michael Caine and Denholm Elliott. Christopher Reeve is so good as the meticulous and clumsy actor that I forgot he was already superman at the time.
I ended up watching it again and now I still want to watch it one more time.—