There have been many narrative techniques used over the course of cinema’s history. Some of the more unique ones involve non-linear storytelling, popularised by Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. An uncommon technique, however, is that of the single situation movie, where the characters are kept in one location for the entirety of the film. Using this method, we have been treated to thrillers such as Rope (1948) and dramas like Carnage (2011), but the one thing they all had in common was that they included multiple characters interacting with one another, holding the audience’s attention through the use of conversations and conflict. But how would such a single location film work with just one actor? With one man delivering a 98-minute monologue about his career as a boxer, would the audience be bored, especially those who have no interest in the sport, or could this risky move work wonders? I’m pleased to say after watching The Pyramid Texts that the latter is true.
The Shammasian Brothers make their directorial debut working off screenwriter Geoff Thompson’s play have crafted a fine movie here, one that also boasts a powerful performance from its lead star, James Cosmo (Game of Thrones) playing an ageing boxer who climbs into the ring and after setting up the video recorder begins his story. Now this sort of setup is what one would expect from a play but those accustomed to the medium of film providing them with fast frenetic action (myself included) may feel lost in this confessional piece. Therefore it is truly high praise that this actor can not only hold one’s interest but does so in a way that we aren’t aware that we are watching a single man bare his soul, and bare his soul he does. Over the run time, we come to learn of his emotional scars, his troubled relationship with his son and the philosophy of boxing.
Filmed in black and white, The Pyramid Texts is a visually beautiful film. Cosmo is framed perfectly and the boxing ring and its surrounding have a lived in feel, rich with history. The small snippets of flashbacks are similarly filmed and used sparingly, not overpowering or derailing the monologue. Working as fleeting memories they are used to expand upon what we are hearing and work brilliantly within the narrative. It’s also in these flashbacks that we get a glimpse of the son for whom this video confession is apparently meant for (played by Cosmo’s real life son). The final 30 minutes of the movie is where the film becomes more tense and emotional, the camera stationary, not budging from Cosmo’s face as we the audience have no choice but to stare back at this man who throughout the film has previously been unable to meet the eye of the camera. It will break your heart and truly make you feel for him, yes the non-boxing fans too.
It’s a true shame that the movie took so long after its festival viewing to get a wider release and I truly urge you to track it down as Cosmo delivers an astounding performance that unfortunately may otherwise go unnoticed.