Films by Harold Pinter
The Proust Screenplay 1972

Not filmed

Based on A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, by Marcel Proust

Screenplay by Harold Pinter published in Collected Screenplays 2

Also adapted from the screenplay for the stage, by Harold Pinter and Di Trevis (Produced at the Royal National Theatre 2000/2001)


In his introduction, short and much to the point, Mr Pinter says: "We decided that the architecture of the film should be based on two main and contracting principles: one a movement, chiefly narrative, towards disillusion, and the other, more intermittent, towards revelation, rising to where time that was lost is found and fixed for ever in art. " This seems an excellent summary of one-probably the best approach.

Anthony Powell, The Daily Telegraph, May 4th 1978

We read The Proust Screenplay with all kinds of things in our mind: Proust, Pinter's reading of Proust; the problem of abridgment, the problem of dramatization, the problem of visualization; the film which might have been made from this script; the script itself as a literary work, words on the page. In permitting and controlling the interplay of these things Pinter has created a small masterpiece of wit and understanding.

Michael Wood, Times Literary Supplement, June 2nd 1978

Throughout the screenplay a complex of time planes is dexterously manipulated. All the years of the novel are assumed to exist simultaneously, and the film moves in and out of them as it needs to. The changes are almost always immediately clear, but even when a change is briefly ambiguous, this contributes to the paramount effect: of being suspended in a magical vessel full of time.

Stanley Kaufmann, The New Republic

I went to London last week to talk to Harold Pinter about Proust and about the screenplay. The conversation took place in Pinter's study. As he spoke-and he spoke well, but with so much pensive hesitation that his speech at times seemed disjoined-I was reminded of something Proust said about creativity-that it is born "not of conversation and the light of day but of darkness and silence. "

"Can I just say one thing? " Pinter said almost as soon as we sat down. "And that is that I'm delighted that you're interested ­well clearly you're more than interested-but what I'm really saying, however, is that I don't find the thing terribly easy to talk about. I don't find Proust terribly easy to talk about. You understand what I mean. "

"You're finished with it, of course, " I said. "In a sense, it's over for you. As a rule, do you care to talk about work you've finished? "

"No, I do not. I find it extremely difficult. And don't, in fact, but very, very rarely. But as you can well imagine what this encounter with Proust meant for me. Don't forget that this whole thing happened very hot off the oven for me I read Proust for three solid months. For those three months I would do nothing else but read Proust all day, and I emerged, to say the least, dizzy, I say this in my introduction-which really killed me to write actually. Very difficult-to be precise. That's why it is so short, by the way. And then I was totally imbedded in the thing for nine months after that. I really felt alive throughout the year, and normally as Monsieur Proust himself says, one doesn't. The actual reading was in fact an inspiration. I have to use that word. It was a profound-a very large experience. And yet I wasn't left with the feeling that I was dealing with a blockbuster, if you will. I mean, you can't miss a word in Proust, can you? You've got to read every damn word because it is so precise and so considered and so felt. I was left with the power and significance of the most delicate sort of experience. I remember my first conversation with Joseph Losey just after I'd finished the reading. I went to him and I said "Well, what the hell to do? We hadn't made any decisions whatsoever at that point. Nobody knew what was going to go or be sacrificed, or what form the thing could possibly take. Eventually, one day when I was in more than my usual despair, Joe said, "There's only one thing to do. Go home tomorrow morning and start, just start. So what I was immediately plunged into was the question of what caught me-well everything caught me, I was totally consumed-but what I was aware of in terms of film. I'm pretty sure that I suddenly went straight into images. I actually threw a lot of images down on paper and found myself left with them. And that's how I got started. "

As his first shot, Pinter has a detail, a patch of yellow wall from Vermeer's View of Delft.

The patch of yellow wall will appear again as the last shot. Over the image is heard the voice of Marcel: It was time to begin."

Stephen Menich, The Voice, December 12 1977


Further Reading

'The Proust Screenplay on BBC Radio' by Mary Bryden (Pinter Review 1995-6)

'On the screenplay of 'A la Recherche du Temps Perdu' by Harold Pinter (Various Voices Prose, Poetry, Politics 1948-1998 Faber and Faber)'

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