Figures In A Landscape (1970)

JOSEPH LOSEY

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

//USA, 1970. , . Screenplay by , based on the novel by . Cinematography by , , . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

The figures of the title are two fugitives running across the arid, sun-soaked Spanish landscape where this minimalist survival adventure was filmed, their hands tied behind their backs suggesting that they have escaped some manner of incarceration. They argue between them over whose ideas are better, the gruff older man (Robert Shaw, who also wrote the script) ready to kill anyone who gets in their way while his younger, seemingly more gentlemanly companion (, fresh off his success with If…. but before Kubrick would make him a household name) gives the impression that he has fallen from some kind of height to this degraded position.

The details of their characters, their predicament and their location are intentionally vague (reportedly much more so than the novel), leaving us with an intense, stripped-down action film that draws you in to its activities with some breathtaking aerial photography before pitting man against machine: as they run, stopping to rob the odd villager, they are pursued by a helicopter determined to catch them. Their arguments continue, the position of top-dog switches back and forth and they move further up the terrain from the burning flatlands to snowy mountains in search of their ultimate fate.

Joseph Losey delivers something no audience member wanted when this box office failure was released, an art-house escape film, but time has been kind to its finer qualities and, thanks to a generous restoration, it has been polished to a gleam and makes for yet another classic in this famously unpredictable auteur’s filmography.

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