Insignificance (1985)

Insignificance (1985)

Taglines: She had the one figure he needed to complete the equation.

Four 1950’s cultural icons (Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio and Senator Joseph MacCarthy) who conceivably could have met and probably didn’t, fictionally do in this modern fable of post-WWII America. Visually intriguing, the film has a fluid progression of flash-backs and flash-forwards centering on the fictional Einstein’s current observations, childhood memories and apprehensions for the future.

Insignificance is a 1985 British comedy-drama film directed by Nicolas Roeg, produced by Jeremy Thomas and Alexander Stuart, and adapted by Terry Johnson from his play of the same name. The film is set in 1954, with most of the action taking place in a hotel room in New York City. The action revolves around the interplay of four characters who represent iconic figures of the era, Marilyn Monroe, Joseph McCarthy, Joe DiMaggio, and Albert Einstein called The Actress, The Senator, The Ballplayer, and The Professor, respectively.

About the Story

The film opens on a crowded New York City street where people have gathered to watch a film crew shoot a sequence which becomes recognisable as the iconic shot of Marilyn Monroe in a white dress standing on a grate while the rush of wind caused by a huge fan to imitate the subway going by below blows her skirt up around her waist. The Actress’ husband, The Ballplayer, watches with obvious discomfort as she is ogled. The Actress, rather than join him afterwards, disappears in a taxi, leaving him behind. She stops at a store and picks up a variety of toys, flashlights, and balloons.

Insignificance (1985)

The Professor, recognisable as Albert Einstein, is in his hotel room, working on pages of mathematical calculations. He is interrupted by The Senator, who has come to alternately coax and threaten him into appearing before a committee to investigate his activities and answer the famous question, “Have you now or have you ever been…?” The Senator is recognisable as Joe McCarthy. The Professor refuses and says he will never appear. The Senator leaves, saying he’ll be back to get him at 8 a.m. the following morning.

The Actress appears at the door of the Professor’s hotel room, and he invites her in. They talk about fame, being chased, and the stars. She does a lively demonstration of the Theory of Relativity using the toys and flashlights and balloons. She tells The Professor he is at the top of her list of people she’d like to sleep with. They decide to go to bed, but are interrupted by the arrival of The Ballplayer, who has tracked her to the hotel. The Professor leaves them alone and goes to find another room, meeting a Cherokee elevator man with whom he speaks. The Actress and The Ballplayer talk about their marriage; The Actress tells her husband she believes she is pregnant, but he has fallen asleep.

The following morning The Senator arrives at The Professor’s room to find him gone, but The Actress naked and alone in his bed. The Senator mistakes her for a call girl and threatens to use her to expose and embarrass The Professor, then punches her hard in the abdomen, causing her to collapse in pain. The Professor returns while The Senator is collecting all of the hundreds of pages of The Professor’s work to take away with him.

The Professor grabs the papers and throws them out of the windows, while The Actress writhes in agony on the bed. The Senator leaves, defeated in his purpose. The Ballplayer returns and talks about his fame in the baseball world, and confides in him about his marital problems while The Actress is in the bathroom, possibly suffering a miscarriage. She finally announces to him that their marriage is over, and he leaves.

Insignificance Movie Poster (1985)

Insignificance (1985)

Directed by: Nicolas Roeg
Starring: Gary Busey, Tony Curtis, Theresa Russell, Michael Emil, Will Sampson, Patrick Kilpatrick, George Holmes, Ian O’Connell
Screenplay by: Terry Johnson
Production Design by: David Brockhurst
Cinematography by: Peter Hannan
Film Editing by: Tony Lawson
Costume Design by: Shuna Harwood
Art Direction by: Arthur Max Shafransky, Celia Barnett
Music by: Stanley Myers, Hans Zimmer
Distributed by: Island Alive (USA), Palace Pictures (UK)
Release Date: August 2, 1985