Sog.: based on the novel The Unsleeping Eye (1973) by David G. Compton. Scen.: David Rayfiel, Bertrand Tavernier, Géza von Radványi. F.: Pierre-William Glenn. M.: Michael Ellis, Armand Psenny. Scgf.: Anthony Pratt, Bernd Lepel. Mus.: Antoine Duhamel. Int.: Romy Schneider (Katherine Mortenhoe), Harvey Keitel (Roddy), Harry Dean Stanton (Vincent Ferriman), Thérèse Liotard (Tracey), Max von Sydow (Gerald Mortenhoe), William Russell (dottor Mason), Vadim Glowna (Harry), Caroline Langrishe (la ragazza del bar), Bernhard Wicki (il padre di Katherine). Prod.: Bertrand Tavernier, Elie Kfouri, Alain Sarde per Selta Films, Sara Films, Little Bear, Antenne 2, TV 13 Fernseh-und Filmgesellschaft mbH, SFP – Société Française de Production, ZDF – Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, Corona Filmproduktion GmbH. DCP. Col.
In an unspecified future, it is a good idea not to look the person you are speaking to in the eyes – this is the implicit advice in Tavernier’s La Mort en direct. For that person might have miniscule cameras inserted into their pupils and fuelled by solar or artificial light. And so your face, your gestures, your most intimate actions and secrets could be transmitted, perhaps via satellite, to a global broadcaster waiting to transform all life’s moments into show business, with you as an involuntary protagonist. [….] However, bit-by-bit viewers become bored with life and start to long for new experiences; and so death, life’s antagonist, is called into play. In other words, the secret recording and live broadcast of suffering and death. Thus spectacle is guaranteed! […] This is the starting point for the futuristic novel that David Compton gave Tavernier and from which he created an ‘ethical fantasy’ film – in other words, a film belonging to that current of science fiction which prefers to deal in matters of sociology and consciousness than the stars. La Mort en direct thus belongs to the same tradition as the Elio Petri’s The Tenth Victim, François Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451, or the films of Watkins.
Callisto Cosulich, “Cinema 60”, n. 140, July-August 1991
Consumed with worry, and filled with doubt, above all self-doubt, she could give of herself completely, provided one showed her the same generosity in return: “If you need me and you can make it known, I will give you my all, if you will give me yours. If not, then find an easier actress to work with. Try Charlotte Rampling…” She thought she was incapable of improvising, and that was true as far as dialogue was concerned, but when it came to emotion, she would dive right in. Shots were prolonged well beyond their normal duration. She taught me to stop saying “Cut!” when I was used to saying it. Romy Schneider was one of those actors who give you direct tion, they are like the musical score to your direction. She dictated, practically imposed, very long scenes, with ample movement. If you disrespected her, she could whip up like an ocean in a storm. Sautet says she reminds him of Mozart. I’ve always thought more in terms of Verdi or Mahler. We used to write to each other all the way through the shoot and I’ve kept some of her letters, in her own words, signed Katherine, the name of her character in the film. The first letter was very simple: “I will be your Katherine, without any self-pity.” She got right to the heart of the character.
Bertrand Tavernier, “Positif ”, n. 300, February 1986