UK, 1973, 70 minutes, Colour.
Albert Finney, Rachel Roberts.
Directed by Anthony Page.
Alpha Beta is a brief English telemovie directed by theatre director, Anthony Page. Page made a number of feature films including Inadmissible Evidence, Absolution and The Lady Vanishes. However, while his main work was in theatre, he made quite a number of interesting television movies. They included The Missiles of October, F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood, The Patricia Neal Story, Bill and Bill On His Own as well as a remake of Johnny Belinda.
The film stars Albert Finney and Rachel Roberts. They are the only two actors to appear. The film is in three sequences, a focus on a marriage and its development and break-up. The stars are fine performers and bring great credibility to their roles, especially as the film seems rather confined in a stage-like way to its sets and the two characters. However, in its brevity, it is an effective insight into relationships, commitment and marriage.
1. What was the total impact of this film? Why would audiences want to watch it? What effect would it have on them emotionally, intellectually?
2. How evident were the television origins of this film? Were they to its advantage or not?
3. Comment on the structure of the three segments, the use of time of the sixties and seventies, the indication of Liverpool, of the house, the sense of place? What did this contribute to the film's impact?
4. How important was it that only two characters appeared? The significance of hearing the babies and the children crying?
5. Did the film seem too stagebound or did it have fluid cinema techniques?
6. The significance and tone of the title as explained in the film, with the quarrels and the contradictions of the couple?
7. How much of the film was observation of quarrelling couples? How much was insight into persons and their interactions? Which predominated?
9. The importance of so much talk and the impact that it had on audiences?
10. The first two parts ending in screams? Such details as the wallpapering, discussions about the outings, who got whom a cup of coffee, the children and school life? How were these used as significant and symbolically in the film?
11. Did the film indicate the reasons why the couple married? The expectations of each about marriage and of the other? What signs of love between them were indicated in the film, either in language or in signs?
12. What happened to the couple in the early years of their marriage? Why had the marriage begun to break down when we saw it? What happened during the breakdown? The effect on each individual? The effect on the children?
l3. What was significant in the sequence of the early sixties? How much love was left? How much hatred? The wife's nagging? The husband's selfishness? Was there any possibility of remedying the situation? What would have been required from each of them? How did they interact? How hurtful was the interaction and why?
14. What had happened by the late sixties? The wife's preoccupation with the husband's dealing with sluts? The nature of their arrangement and agreement and living this out? The formality of living together for the sake of the children? The hold that the wife had on the husband? How desperate was each of them by this stage? Why? What were the highlights of this segment in terms of love, hate, mistaken and misunderstood interaction?
15. What had happened by the early seventies? Was the separation inevitable, the best thing? The love and hate that kept the couple together? A matter of life and death? Death for the wife? What had they reached by the end of the film?
16. How much insight into man and woman did the film give? Into husband and wife? On the hold that each has on the other? On the games that people play? On the relish of hurting others and using others? Of desperation?
17. What comment on modern marriage did the film make? What insight into the status and condition of modern marriage? The initial discussion of morality as a leading into the investigation of marriage? Modern beliefs about marriage, sex, love, relationships? The place of children in the family? Deals, arrangements, keeping a facade of respectability?
18. If there were to be any remedy for this marriage, what would be required?
19. What were the purposes of making this film? What values did it explore well? The value of presenting it to modern audiences?