Whoever Was Using This Bed
Jean-Marc Barr, Radha Mitchell, Jane Birkin
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Barr and Mitchell are superbly cast…
Like Jorge Luis Borges, Raymond Carver made a career out of impeccable miniatures; short, self-contained stories wherein impact belies length. Anyone who ever sat down to write a short-story knows the challenge of economy. The succinct condensation of ideas to their minimum is a difficult art which typically goes against the nature of the writer whose instinct is to use everything and waste nothing.
All this bears similarly on film, and particularly in its short form. Typically, films based on short stories tend to embellish their source; sometimes necessarily; sometimes to the point where resemblance with the source becomes mostly incidental.
Whoever Was Using This Bed is a twenty-one minute short film by Andrew Kotatko based on the Raymond Carver story of the same title.
Jean-Marc Barr and Radha Mitchell play a neurotic middle aged couple whose marital malaise is interrupted only by a mysterious telephone caller (Jane Birkin). While Barr is both ashamed and excited in his response, Mitchell, whose outward reaction is jealously, seems peculiarly relieved by the interruption of monotony. Once they unplug the phone and remove their disturbance, this dialogue quickly devolves to a preoccupation with illness and death.
As an adaptation Kotatko’s film replicates the story in a nearly verbatim sense. While it chooses not to embellish the text in any way which would reconceptualise it in terms of character or motivation, it does expand upon it in a subtle manner. Principally this happens through the shift in medium, the necessity of a visual space and the implications of body language.
Barr and Mitchell are superbly cast, tremendously able in their portrayal of deeply fatiguing loneliness; while Birkin’s inimitable voice carries with it the right amount of sensual ambiguity necessary to its purpose.
Whoever Was Using This Bed is an impeccably well-made short film, deeply melancholic and enriched by its superb performances. While Carver’s story is open enough to interpretation that it could be done very differently, it is difficult to think of how it could be done much better.
Following its premiere at the Flickerfest International Short Film Festival, let’s hope we see more of this film on the festival circuit, and more films from Andrew Kotatko.