It is always disappointing when a film you’ve longed to see turns out to be neither exceptional or awful. Were it the other case, in either direction, a reaction is achieved. This particular film simply left me.
The Adding Machine was high on my must-see list. It’s story of Mr. Zero, a life long accountant, replaced by an adding machine and driven to violence through frustration is a pertinent today as it was in 1932 when Elmer Rice wrote the play upon which this film is based. The stories weightier concepts begin when its main character is sentenced to death and awakes in a utopia known as The Elysian Fields. If this is heaven it is not what Mr. Zero expected. Told his soul is as useless here as his physical body was on Earth Mr. Zero continues to wonder just what life (and after-life) is all about. These introspective concepts set against a dreamlike backdrop all make for an interesting premise ripe with potential. So why is this film not amazing? Why is it simply droll?
Perhaps, I put this film too high on my list. Perhaps hype overshadowed the small beauty of this film. However, on first viewing, Elmer Rice’s 1932 play does not transition well to the big screen. The visual possibilities of cinema seem hardly explored and most of the film feels shackled to the small scope settings of a theatrical production. Even if this play is more about big ideas and little care is spent on setting, the ideas, as presented by this cast do not spring to life. Even in a play that toys with ideas of banality and meaninglessness there needs to be more than a mere pulse.
And yet, having written all of this I don’t feel I’ve given the film as fare a shake as it deserves. Scenes and concepts from this film linger in my mind. While I’m well past enjoying the film, I’m not quite done thinking about it. Like Mr. Zero’s confusion over what he find in The Elysian Fields, I too may simply have found something I did not expect to find. Surely, I will have to revisit The Adding Machine another day.