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the Complete Review
the complete review - film


3 Days

Thomas Bernhard

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To purchase 3 Days

Title: 3 Days
Author: Thomas Bernhard
Genre: Screenplay
Written: (1970) (Eng. 2016)
Length: 176 pages
Original in: German
Availability: 3 Days - US
3 Days - UK
3 Days - Canada
in Der Italiener - Deutschland
  • From the film by Ferry Radax
  • German title: Drei Tage
  • First published in Der Italiener
  • Translated by Laura Lindgren
  • With a Note by Thomas Bernhard
  • With an Afterword by Georg Vogt
  • With many stills from the film

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Our Assessment:

A- : beautiful book-version of a fascinating film-portrait

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Thomas Bernhard: 3 Days isn't so much a screenplay as film-book: Ferry Radax's 1970 TV-film is (essentially) a monologue by author Bernhard, filmed over the course of three days, but this volume doesn't just reproduce the text but also frames it with (very many) stills from the film. An effective use of black and white pages -- many (though not all) of the page-spreads consist of one page with a black background facing a white one -- and careful placement of limited text and pictures -- on the all-black pages, often only a single line of text in white print -- serve well to highlight Bernhard's words. Similarly, while Bernhard's film-pose may seem limited -- he's just sitting on a park bench almost the entire time -- the stills, close-ups, and variations (which include everything from the bench without Bernhard sitting on it to what amount to behind-the-scene pictures of the filming (but which are also part of the film)) make for a visually striking set of images that complement the text; indeed, Thomas Bernhard: 3 Days works so well as (photo-)album book that there are times one forgets that it is a film-record.
       The film was intended as a (TV-)portrait of the artist, and is simply -- or not so simply -- one of Bernhard sitting on a park bench in Hamburg and talking about himself and his work, along with some stretches of the filming-process itself (with Georg Vogt suggesting in his Afterword some of the reasons for this, such as that: "by filming the image displayed on the video camera's monitor [Radax] points to the artificiality of the situation").
       Bernhard offers some autobiographical details -- revealing at a time when, as noted in the opening Publisher's Note, he had not yet published his autobiographical sequence, Gathering Evidence --, helpfully framing man and work. Solitariness is a dominant theme -- reinforced also by the image of the lone figure on the park bench --, with Bernhard emphasizing -- and embracing -- solitude:

Only alone can you evolve, you will always be alone ... the consciousness that you cannot step outside of yourself.

All else is delusion, doubt. This never changes.
You have viewpoints, differing, your own -- you are always alone.

And if you write a book, or like me, books, you are yet more alone ...
       He mentions how suicide-prone his ancestors were, and admits enjoying his own wallows:
Melancholia is a very pleasant condition. I succumb to it very easily and gladly. Less often, or not at all, in the country, where I work, but in the city, instantly ...
       And he is particularly enthusiastic about the melancholia Vienna allows for (a far greyer city in 1970 than it is now).
       Bernhard speaks both about his writing and his reading, including the authors he engages with -- notably:
I am addicted to Musil, Pavese, Ezra Pound -- it's really not poetry; it's absolute prose.
       He admits:
I am hardly a cheery author, no storyteller; I basically detest stories.
       And he suggests:
It is, just so, wrong to write any book to the end. And the biggest mistake is when an author writes a book to the end.
       Arguably, of course, 3 Days should be seen (and you can: a DVD version is available (and you can find it on YouTube, too)). Certainly, the experience of watching is a different one than of reading: the flow of images -- and in particular the silences -- can't be reproduced in the same way in the book, and Bernhard's voice and intonation are also missing in print. (Indeed, the selection and placement of the fixed images make for a very different flow, in a film that proceeds very differently than, say, a (much-easier-to-fill-in-the-blanks) action-film does.) But there are advantages to a text-and-stills reproduction too, and while Bernhard was a very good performer (as he notes, he considered an acting career) the words are what matter.
       Thomas Bernhard: 3 Days isn't so much a print-reproduction of the film as a complement to it (with Vogt's Afterword providing some useful supplementary information), and a beautiful and very appealing work all on its own.

- M.A.Orthofer, 31 October 2016

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3 Days: Reviews: Thomas Bernhard: Other books by Thomas Bernhard under review: Books about Thomas Bernhard under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Austrian author Thomas Bernhard lived 1931 to 1989.

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© 2016 the complete review

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