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Bad Timing

Nicolas Roeg
UK 1980 / 123’
The Man Who Fell to Earth Eureka

"A sick film, made by sick people for sick people" is how the film was described by its distributor, Rank Organisation, which withdrew its logo from the credits. Roeg was once again ahead of his time, and it took several decades for Bad Timing to be recognized as one of his most accomplished works. The protagonists in this erotic thriller set in Cold War Vienna are Americans: a professor of psychiatry named Alex (the great musician Art Garfunkel) and Milena (Theresa Russell, in a role that she held in particularly high regard), who are brought together through their destructive passion. By juxtaposing scenes showing a female orgasm and scenes from a hospital emergency room, Roeg once again associates erotic passion with the drive toward death. Milena's presumed suicide attempt is the subject of an investigation by Inspector Netusil (Harvey Keitel completes the star-studded cast), whose questions are to meant to refresh Alex's memory of that tragic night. With recollections intertwined with fantasies, impulses and the need for control, a mixed-up chronology and sudden cuts, Bad Timing will leave you feeling dizzy. Every subsequent scene is like a piece of a puzzle, constantly changing the meaning of the whole. By gluing the story together from fragments, like a broken mirror (one of Roeg's fundamental themes), the director also takes on the subject of scopophilia, i.e., erotic pleasure from watching others, and, in doing so, reminds viewers that they too are voyeurs.

Małgorzata Sadowska


Toronto IFF 1980 - People’s Choice Award; London Critics Circle Film Award 1981 – Director of the Year

Nicolas Roeg

Born in 1928, Nicolas Roeg is one of Britain's most original filmmakers: a director with passion who tears down the order of the classical narrative, a master of editing and an outstanding stylist. Probing with his camera deep into our obsessions, tormenting memories, unhealed collective and individual wounds and sexual fantasies, he broke down the on-screen division between past and present, proving - in a particularly brilliant way - that cinema is a time capsule. While struggling for years with rejection and being misunderstood, Roeg consistently followed the path of an outsider, not only setting his films outside Great Britain (in Australia, the Seychelles, Vienna), but also happily working with artists associated with counter-cultural rebellion (David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Art Garfunkel). Films that came to be appreciated a bit too late, such as PerformanceDon't Look Now, WalkaboutThe Man Who Fell to Earth and Bad Timing, are iconic works: visually stunning, engaging, provocative fairy tales for adults.

Selected filmography

1970 Performance

1971 Walkabout

1973 Nie oglądaj się teraz / Don’t Look Now

1976 Człowiek, który spadł na ziemię / The Man Who Fell to Earth

1980 Zmysłowa obsesja / Bad Timing

1983 Eureka

1985 Z przymrużeniem oka / Insignificance

1988 Tor 29 / Track 29

1990 Wiedźmy / Witches

Cast & Crew

director Nicolas Roeg
screenplay Yale Udoff
cinematography Anthony B. Richmond
editing Tony Lawson
music Richard Hartley
cast Theresa Russell, Art. Garfunkel, Harvey Keitel, Denholm Elliott
producer Jeremy Thomas, Tim Van Rellim
production Recorded Picture Company, The Rank Organisation
language English
colouration colour