Welles’ final fictional film and first one in colour is a simple story, only an hour long, about the purpose of storytelling, and the ways in which desire can both drive and destroy us.
It looks beautiful, though the stoic camera-work rarely makes it feel like an Orson Welles film. That’s fine, though, because Welles seems to be attempting some sort of purity here. The Immortal Story is essentially a fable, an urban legend repeated on the lips of inn-keepers and, yes, sailors through the years until all the extraneous edges have been sanded off.
Each of the four main characters is alone for a simple reason, and each of them hang onto a certain narrative to give themselves purpose. They each live in solipsistic perpetuity, existing only to tell themselves their story so that they may tell it once again.
And in placing that purpose upon humanity as a whole, Welles makes a rather beautiful statement to cap his fictional career*. We tell stories because we have to, because meaning is built in the lies we allow ourselves.
*I know F For Fake is at least mostly fictional, but it’s complicated and whatever just also watch F for Fake, it’s my favourite Orson Welles film.