A film based on Herman Melville's classic novella "Bartleby the Scrivener."
Although updated from a 19th century scrivener to a 1970s London bookkeeper, Melville's classic Bartleby character is most faithfully brought to life in this extraordinary film.
A young accounting clerk rebels against his employer by responding to demands to do work by saying, "I prefer not to." This is carried on on ad absurdum until the office is in chaos because the other employees must do Bartleby's work. His boss is unable to fire him and eventually has him placed in a mental hospital. Why the boss simply doesn't fire him straight off is the crux of the film.
John McEnery as Bartleby and Paul Scofield as his boss are a perfect match. The New Republic states, "John McEnery in the title role achieves such intense inner concentration that his immobility amidst a rushing world, is perfectly convincing. Paul Scofield, catalyzed by this Bartleby, seems to make his thoughts speak."