Showing posts with label harold pinter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label harold pinter. Show all posts

Monday 23 September 2013

Worksheet: Film Screening - Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party

Worksheet: Film Screening 

Film Screening: ‘The Birthday Party - a British drama film (1968)- directed by 
William Friedkin (The Birthday Party) -  based on an unpublished screenplay by 2005 Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter, which he adapted from his own play The Birthday Party (Pinter, The Birthday Party).

Online Quiz on 'The Birthday Party'

Pre-Viewing Tasks:

  • ·         Harold Pinter – the man and his works (Pinter, The Birthday Party)
  • ·         Comedy of Menace: Whose plays are known so? Who termed it? What are its peculiar characteristics? How is it different from Absurd Theatre?
  • ·         Explain ‘Pinteresque’ – Pinter pause and use of ‘Silence’ in the play: a particular atmosphere and environment in drama.
  • ·         ‘The Birthday Party’ – an allegory of ‘artist in exile and other interpretations
  • ·         ‘The Birthday Party’ as a Political Play with reference to Harold Pinter’s Noble Speech: ‘Art, Truth & Politics[1]’. (Pinter, Art, Truth & Politics: Excerpts from the 2005 Nobel Lecture)

While – Viewing Tasks:

  • ·         Harriet Deer and Irving Deer’s article[2] on Pinter's "The Birthday Party": The Film and the Play. (Deer and Deer)
  • ·         A comparison of the film and play versions of ‘The Birthday Party’ affords us a rare opportunity to gain insight into how a reconception of a play into film may affect the dramatic experience it communicates. Mark the way Pinter treats the texture of the play.
  • ·         Observe how Pinter gives us the texture-the sounds and sights of a world without structure, which is the heart and soul of the play also.
  • ·         How many times the ‘knocking at the door’ happens in the play? Is it creating menacing effect while viewing the movie?
  • ·         How are ‘silences’ and ‘pauses’ used in the movie to give effect of lurking danger – how it helps in building the texture of comedy of menace.
  • ·         Comment upon the use of things like mirror, toy drum, newspapers, breakfast, chairs, window-hatch etc in the movie. What sort of symbolic reading can you give to these objects?
  • ·         How effective are scenes like ‘Interrogation scene’ (Act 1), ‘Birthday Party scene’ (Act 2) and ‘Faltering Goldberg & Petey’s timid resistance scene’ (Act 3) captured in the movie?
  • Post-Viewing Tasks:
  • ·         Why are two scenes of Lulu omitted from the movie?
  • ·         Is movie successful in giving us the effect of menace? Where you able to feel it while reading the text?
  • ·         Do you feel the effect of lurking danger while viewing the movie? Where you able to feel the same while reading the text
  • What do you read in 'newspaper' in the movie? Petey is reading newspaper to Meg, it torn into pieces by McCain, pieces are hidden by Petey in last scene.
  • Camera is positioned over the head of McCain when he is playing Blind Man's Buff and is positioned at the top with a view of room like a cage (trap) when Stanley is playing it. What interpretations can you give to these positioning of camera? 
  • "Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of one another and pretense crumbles." (Pinter, Art, Truth & Politics: Excerpts from the 2005 Nobel Lecture). Does this happen in the movie?
  • ·         How does viewing movie help in better understanding of the play ‘The Birthday Party’ with its typical characteristics (like painteresque, pause, silence, menace, lurking danger)?
  • ·         With which of the following observations you agree:

o   “It probably wasn't possible to make a satisfactory film of "The Birthday Party."
o    “It's impossible to imagine a better film of Pinter's play than this sensitive, disturbing version directed by William Friedkin”[3]. (Ebert)

  • ·        If you were director or screenplay writer, what sort of difference would you make in the making of movie?
  • ·         Who would be your choice of actors to play the role of characters?
  •      Do you see any similarities among Kafka's Joseph K. (in 'The Trial'), Orwell's Winston Smith (in 'Nineteen Eighty-Four') and Pinter's Victor (in 'One for the Road')?  

The famous interrogation scene from the movie 'The Birthday Party':

The film version of the play can be viewed here:

Want to listen amazing video-speech by Harold Pinter on the occasion of his being awarded Nobel Prize in 2005? 



Ebert, Roger. Movie Review: The Birthday Party. Ed. Roger Ebert. 23 Sept. 2013 <>.
Pinter, Harold. "Art, Truth & Politics: Excerpts from the 2005 Nobel Lecture." World Literature Today May-Jun 2006: 21-27.
—. The Birthday Party. New Delhi: Faber And Faber (penguin India), 1960, 1991.
The Birthday Party. By Harold Pinter. Dir. William Friedkin. Perf. Robert Shaw, et al. Prods. Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky. Continental Motion Pictures Corporation, 1968.
The film can be viewed online here:

[1] Art Truth &Politics: Excerpts from the 2005 Nobel Lecture Author(s): Harold Pinter. Source: World Literature Today, Vol. 80, No. 3 (May - Jun., 2006), pp. 21-27Published by: Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma. Stable URL:
[2] Pinter's "The Birthday Party": The Film and the Play. Author(s): Harriet Deer and Irving Deer. Source: South Atlantic Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 2 (May, 1980), pp. 26-30Published by: South Atlantic Modern Language Association. Stable URL: