Starring: Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale and Barbara Jefford
Distributor: Transmission Films
Runtime: 98 mins. Reviewed in Apr 2012
Highly, very highly, stylised.
That can serve as a review description – but also as a warning to audiences who like their dramas straightforward, even realistic, rather than one presented as consciously contrived for dramatic effect. The latter is what Terence Davies has done in his comparatively few films, made over more than two decades. His semi-autobiographical films, Distant Voices, Still Lives (something of a masterpiece of British wartime mood insight) and the more straightforward, The Long Day Closes, had a distinctive measured pace, a selection of events that revealed characters but always in a contect that blended the real with the lights and shadows of house interiors. And then there was the musical score, sometimes classic, often popular, even with scenes of community singing in the local pub.
He drew on these characteristics for his adaptations of novels, The Neon Bible and Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth.
He put himself into his documentary on Liverpool for its year as European city of culture, Of Times and Places. His commentary during that film as well as in media interviews show him as rather held-in, prissy-mannered, often cutting in his remarks.
All these influences are discernible in his adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s 1952 play about marriage, formality, desire for passion and memories of the war, The Deep Blue Sea, filmed in 1954 with Vivien Leigh and Kenneth More.
While the principal action takes place over one day, beginning with Hester Collier’s suicide attempt in the morning and her being left alone in the evening, the early part of the film enables us to go into Hester’s memories and how she came to this state of mind. And, during the day, there are further flashbacks which complete her story.
The film opens in the London street (about 1950), cranes up to Hester standing at the window and then moves inside. It ends with Hester again at the window, then the camera outside and tracking in reverse to a darkening evening and dwelling on some suburban ruins from the Blitz. Ruins at the end? Or, a shot of ruins knowing the London could rebuild and begin a new life?
Who is Hester Collyer? With Rattigan-Davies’ dialogue and Rachel Weisz’s powerful performance, we learn that she is a minister’s daughter who has married Sir William, now a prominent judge, but who realises that she has a passionate nature and does not find passion in her marriage. (Her mother in law, played by veteran actress, Barbara Jefford in an excellent cameo of a self-centred, son-coddling, fastidious woman, warns her against passion which makes things so ugly.)
Hester is swept off her feet (and heart) by a World War II pilot, loving him intensely even when he can’ quite manage the same emotions. He is played (with echoes of Dirk Bogarde, John Gregson, Kenneth More and all those military chappies ) by Tom Hiddleston, an actor of wide range (Loki in Thor, the sympathetic officer with the horse in War Horse, as F.Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris). The flashbacks show the feelings in their relationship. The day of the film’s action shows its limitations.
Unexpected, however, is the kindness shown by Sir William (award-winning West End theatre actor, Simon Russell Beale).
The pace of the film is very measured (unbearably slow, one reviewer regretted), attention to the framing of every shot, drawing on the atmosphere of the times, using Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto to Eddie Fisher and ‘Any Time’, and giving a thoughtful and feeling audience time enough to contemplate and to dwell on what they are watching.
In its elegant and often refined film-making, The Deep Blue Sea offers insight into the feelings of characters who are often very different from ourselves, who struggle with their lives and passions, often knowing they are doing wrong and hurting others but who cannot help themselves.
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