Volker Schlondorff's adaptation of Arthur Miller's modern classic. Travelling salesman Willy Loman (Dustin Hoffman) has struggled his whole life to win success for his family. Yet in reality, despite Willy's illusions, the Loman clan are falling apart at the seams, with eldest son Biff (John Malkovich) having grown distant from his father due to an incident in the past, and younger son Happy (Stephen Lang) becoming increasingly careless and cynical. When he is fired from his job and forced to live on handouts from a friend, Willy considers the failure of his professional and personal life, and begins to think of a way out.
German filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff's 1985 production of Arthur Miller's most famous play Death of a Salesman
appeared squarely and quite hauntingly in the middle of the go-go economy of the Reagan-Bush years. Miller's story, set during the post-war boom period of the late 1940s, concerns an ageing travelling salesman named Willy Loman (Dustin Hoffman), who despairs that his life his been lived in vain. Facing dispensability and insignificance in a heated, youthful economy, Willy is not ready to part with his cherished fantasies of an America that loves and admires him for personable triumphs in the marketplace. But the reality is far more pitiable than that, and the measure of Willy's self-delusion and contradictions is found in his two sons, one (Stephen Lang) a ne'er-do-well gliding on inherited hot air and repressed feelings, and the other (John Malkovich) a mousy, retiring sort unable to reconcile--or forgive--the difference between his father's desperate impersonation of success and the truth. Schlöndorff's remarkable cast explores Miller's rich subtext to great effect, though Hoffman--despite giving us a new model of Willy to contrast with Lee J Cobb's definitive portrayal a generation before--is a bit insect-like and shrill in his approach. Malkovich, Lang, and Kate Reid (as Willy's long-suffering wife) are perfect, however, and the production is atmospheric and strong. --Tom Keogh, Amazon.com