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Friday, 2 February, 2001, 10:23 GMT
Beckett films start festival
Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett died in 1989
By arts correspondent Rosie Millard

Samuel Beckett's plays may still represent the epitome of modern theatre but on Thursday night in Dublin Castle it was Beckett on the big screen which was the toast of the evening.

Beckett on Film is an extraordinary, almost epic project in which all his 19 stage plays have been directed for cinema.

From classics such as Waiting For Godot to the 54-second long Breath, each of Beckett's plays has been filmed by internationally renowned directors from David Mamet to Neil Jordan and Anthony Minghella.

Kristin Scott Thomas
Kristin Scott Thomas: Muddy urn
The idea came from Michael Colgan, director of Dublin's Gate Theatre who persuaded Irish broadcasters RTE, plus Channel 4, Tyrone Productions and Channel Four to stump up the cash.

The directors then called in their favourite stars ranging from Jeremy Irons to Kristen Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall and John Hurt.

The result is an extraordinary body of work which pays homage to the modernity and philosophy of a great writer as well as the invention of contemporary film makers.

Minghella has put Scott Thomas, Juliet Stephenson and Alan Rickman in three muddy urns, while Michael Lindsay Hogg took over a turkey factory in County Monaghan to shoot Waiting For Godot.

Anthony Minghella
Anthony Minghella won an Oscar for The English Patient
Which director, then, got the plum job of visualising the 45-second Breath, which envisages life as a mere exhalation over a pile of rubbish?

It could only be someone familiar with the spectrum of death in life by way of comedic contemporary culture - British artist Damien Hirst.

The artist who put rotting meat and a tiger shark into the Royal Academy meets his match with a revolutionary of equal stature.

Beckett On Film is playing in entirety at the Dublin Festival, 2-8 February. Following this is it expected to screen at cinemas in the UK and on national television.

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