Death of a Salesman
Now how all this will translate on film we don't know. This is an experiment. I think I'll only try and help how best we can what has been so successful on stage put on film. See that these walls don't quite fit. It is not so much that we wanted to make an economy but to make clear from the beginning and all the way through that this is not a real house. Because if you have that much reality, you don't need that many words any more. This being a play, a reality should be created through the words. If the reality is there anyhow in front of the camera, they don't need to talk that much and it doesn't fit together then. You will contribute greatly by creating reality through your performances. Everything should be fake except for the emotions. They'll be real. And they'll be what we'll be moved by.
—Volker Schlöndorff, addressing the cast of Death of a Salesman
(from Private Conversations)
Death of a Salesman marks a departure for Volker Schlöndorff. It was his first film made in the United States from an American subject, his first Englishlanguage production since Michael Kohlhaas, and his first screen adaptation of a play since Baal. The production, presented on U. S. television on September 15, 1985, was an enormous critical and popular success, racking up ratings twice as good as those for the last television presentation of the play almost twenty years earlier (“'Death' … Doubles 1966 Audience”). With the noted exception of his cinematographer, Michael Ballhaus, Schlöndorff used a largely American crew. Yet despite the new ground broken, Death of a Salesman bears some similarities to Schlöndorff's other works: it was a faithful adaptation of a literary classic; it was made with an aesthetic awareness that its primary use would be on television; and it has a theme typical of Schlöndorff, namely, the damage wrought to human relationships as a result of capitalism.
Schlöndorff's Death of a Salesman was in part an attempt to translate to film