Seconds (1966) Movie Review

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A review of the film Seconds, directed by John Frankenheimer

Submitted: May 21, 2018

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Submitted: May 21, 2018



 If you were offered another chance at starting your life all over again, would you take it? Would you accept being young, inspired, and see the world with new eyes? Would you want to cross the other side of the road, to make the acquaintances, to take the opportunity that you were never able or allowed to take before? Would you be happy?

 That is the question the 1966 film Seconds asks. Directed by John Frankenheimer at the height of his prime as filmmaker and starring Rock Hudson in his best performance outside of the works of Douglas Sirk, the film is an examination of identity and paranoia, and how the choices that we make shape our perceptions of those concepts.

 The story concerns an aging man whose sterile and mundane is interrupted by a mysterious phone call of a friend he thought long dead. He is then invited to join a business group called The Company, which promises to surgically alter his appearance to a younger self so he could live his free life. He accepts, and seems to start over fresh, but the cost may be too great.

 These examinations are mostly filtered visually by the black and white cinematography of James Wong Howe, who also shot Sweet Smell of Success, to showcase deformed angles to exemplify the claustrophobic nature of the story. Saul Bass also contributes with a horrifyingly surreal opening sequence.

The direction, handled by Frankenheimer, also has a touch of documentary feel to it, which makes sense, considering that Frankenheimer started as a documentary filmmaker. The majority of the film was shot on location, giving the film’s premise and the supporting cast’s intentionally off-the-curve performances a believable edge that makes the twists and turns even more disturbing than they already are.

Like the best of science fiction and horror, the story examines a common emotion or fear that we all share and blends it in a more baroque environment where it can be encapsulated in a new form that wouldn’t have worked in a more grounded approach. In this case, it examines our fear of age as well as our considerations and wishes to live a different life, a “what-if” scenario in which we are certain that we have learned from our mistakes and can lead a better and more serene life. But as we discover, we tread on the same path, and commit the same mistakes, and there is quite possibly nothing we can do about it.

Seconds is the legend of Faust if it was written by Franz Kafka. A tale of crisis, masks, and fantasy, it is a chilling tale that is bound to haunt the viewer for some time.

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