The BFI National Archive’s 4K remastering of Peter Wollen’s Friendship’s Death (1987) has been selected for Cannes Classics and will be introduced by Tilda Swinton.
Written and directed by the late celebrated film theorist and filmmaker, Peter Wollen, and produced by Rebecca O’Brien, the film stars Tilda Swinton, who was awarded the BFI Fellowship last year, as Friendship, an alien on a peace mission to Earth. When Friendship misses her intended destination of MIT and lands in Amman, Jordan in 1970 during the civil strife of ‘Black September’, she meets Sullivan (Bill Paterson), a world-weary Scottish war correspondent and the pair are holed up in a hotel as the conflict rages outside.
Friendship’s Death is a compelling and intelligent film that deftly weaves elements of science-fiction with powerful political commentary. Eerily prescient in its contemplation of the relationship between humans and machines, Friendship’s Death worked through some of Peter Wollen’s lifelong obsessions and enthusiasms, expanding on the themes of alienation and existentialism that he had explored in his script for Antonioni’s The Passenger (1975). The production companies were BFI, Channel Four Films and Modelmark.
Peter Wollen is perhaps best known for his classic book Signs and Meanings in Cinema, which transformed the study of film. He is also remembered for his collaborations with fellow film theorist Laura Mulvey on films such as Riddles of the Sphinx (1977) and Amy (1979).
The newly remastered Friendship’s Death premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2020. The film was remastered in 4K by the BFI National Archive from the original Standard 16mm colour negative, and the sound was digitised directly from the original 35mm master soundtrack. Work on the film was conducted by the BFI at Dragon Digital, overseen by cinematographer Witold Stok.
Friendship’s Death will be available on BFI Blu-ray/DVD (Dual Format Edition) for the first time and available to watch on BFI Player from June 2021.