________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 18 . . . . April 27, 2007


The Man Who Waited.

Theodore Ushev. (Director). Susan Fuda, R. Bruce Johnson & Marc Bertrand (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2006.
7 min., 24 sec., VHS or DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9106 009.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

*** /4

For years, Canada’s international film reputation was sustained in the past by the National Film Board’s annual Academy Award nomination for documentaries or short films. Theodore Ushev’s The Man Who Waited continues in this tradition. This short film, not quite eight minutes long, begins with archival black and white footage from pre-war Germany. People are hurrying to work in some large building, perhaps a bank, perhaps a government office. And then, the scene changes from film footage to digital images which are like linocuts. The narrator intones, “At the threshold of truth sits a gate-keeper. A man requests permission to enter.” But, permission is denied. Still, the man waits patiently. The haunting strains of music by Arvo Pärt underscore a series of images which morph from faces to doors, back to stern faces, and beyond. The faceless man continues to wait; time becomes oblivion while his sight and sanity disappear. Sand continues to pour through the hourglass, and nothing or no one – not even the gatekeeper’s fleas – can intercede to have the door opened for him.

     At long last, a series of gothic arches appear, each slightly larger, and a candle in a lantern burns. The man picks up the lantern, and ascends a staircase. Once again, we are reminded that “at the threshold of truth sits a gate-keeper.” The candle burns down as the man’s life dwindles to its end; a tunnel appears, and he asks why, “if everyone seeks the truth”, why must they ask permission to go through this door. He is told that “this entrance is yours.” The door is his, and his alone. And so, it ends.

     The Man Who Waited is a powerful example of film-making, combining the animator’s art with a musical score evocative of the somber, isolated, confusing and nightmarish world that is described as “Kafkaesque.” This is a sophisticated work and not for every classroom. However, students of the graphic arts and media studies will find it an interesting example of the craft of digital production; students of literature will find it a thought-provoking exploration of the craft of story-telling.


Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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