Benefit of the Doubt, Review, 1965

By Zand, Nicole | Framework, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Benefit of the Doubt, Review, 1965


Zand, Nicole, Framework


Regrettably it hasn't been possible to see the spectacle of collective creativity staged by Peter Brook with the Royal Shakespeare Company in October 1966 and called US (U.S. = United States and Us = ourselves) in any place other than London. In fact, Brook vigorously opposed the pre sen ta tion of the production- which is about En glish apathy towards the war in Vietnam and directed specifically at En glish audiences- outside Great Britain.

Benefit of the Doubt, which was filmed last summer by 30- year old En glish director Peter Whitehead, is constructed upon the basis of US, but it isn't just the film of a play (as with, for example, Marat- Sade, both the theatrical and film productions of which were directed by Peter Brook).1 Just as important as the scenes from US, filmed in color, are the black and white sequences which offer up explanations about the origins of the enterprise- the actors' reflections on their experiences and also those of the director- all of which call into question the completed work, an interrogation of its scope, and its significance.

As a description of the En glish reality of Vietnam, the film aims to denounce the easy conscience, to "destabilize" the audience, and also to require them to question themselves, even to the point of taking action. The title, Benefit of the Doubt, refers to a legal rule which stipulates that a culprit who has not confessed to his crime may be acquitted "for the benefit of the doubt." Because this war is not our war, we are not American. So Brook poses a hypothetical question: let us imagine for a moment that all these horrors to which we are exposed by the press, film and tele vi sion were not taking place in a faraway country, but instead on our own territory. …

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