Mike Leigh's Naked is another one of those films I wish more people had seen. Featuring a performance for the ages from actor David Thewlis, it's easily one of the best films of the 1990s. The story centers on Thewlis' Johnny, a grubby malcontent who is wickedly clever but lacks most social graces. The film follows him as he prowls London one night, chronicling his encounters with a diverse group of people, including a night watchman obsessed with the future and the Bible.
This meeting between Thewlis and guard Brian (Peter Wight) highlights everything that's so amazing about Leigh's film. It's a dialogue-heavy sequence that moves through topics in a fascinating way, all the while exposing more of Johnny's character with each word uttered. Right off the bat, the scene starts by showing us how Thewlis' character can be a condescending jerk. As Brian explains what he does for his job -- patrolling a building and clicking the time stamper to show he was there -- Johnny tells him he has the most boring job in England and that they could probably teach a tall chimp to do it. The fact that Johnny is jobless doesn't factor into his diatribe at all.
From there, they move further into the building and start to discuss the future. Johnny, quite the nihilist, doesn't believe we have one. He goes on a fantastic rant about Chernobyl and barcodes that really has to be seen to be appreciated. Brian fights to get a word in edgewise, but Johnny rarely stops for air.
As they move into an elevator, the conversation switches to evolution. "Do you think that the amoeba ever dreamed that it would turn into the frog? Of course it didn't. And when that first frog shimmied out of the water and employed its vocal cords in order to attract a mate, or to retard a predator do you think that the frog ever imagined that that incipient croak would evolve into all the languages of the world and all the literature of the world?" Johnny takes a perverse glee in making everyone as miserable as he is.
The scene ends in a stairwell, with Johnny assuring Brian that god hates them all. This part encapsulates Johnny perfectly -- Brian looks beaten, worn down by the endless barrage of words: "It doesn't matter how many pasts or future existences you have because they're all going to be riddled with grief, and anguish, and sickness and death." Cheery, eh? What makes the scene so unforgettable is the combination of Thewlis' performance and the dialogue. It's amazing that the actor was able to memorize some of these passages. They go on for long stretches full of esoteric words and ideas, and just reciting it alone would be difficult. Saying it while also shouting and gesticulating is nothing short of amazing. See for yourself in the lengthy (NSFW) clip below from Mike Leigh's Naked.