Friday, April 6, 2012

Slipping underwater

The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies) at Landmark's Main in Royal Oak, is a studied, highly character-driven drama about unrequited love. But the twist (based on a novel by Terence Rattigan) is that unrequited love is happening on two fronts and in kind of boomerang fashion. Hester (Rachel Weisz) is cheating on her husband William (Simon Russell Beale), a prominent judge, with former RAF pilot Freddie (Tom Hiddleston). The setting is dreary post-war London, the streets still torn apart from bombing during the Blitz. When her affair is found out Rachel makes no apologies to "Bill" who angrily says he will refuse a divorce. It's hard to understand what Hester finds so attractive in the rather commonplace Freddie, who drinks, replays the war over and over including making airplane sounds in a pub, and who's apparently happiest when he defeats a friend at golf, meanwhile forgetting Hester's birthday. Perhaps it's that old animal attraction. One thing's for sure: Rachel Weisz is one beautiful woman. And, while cultured, her character in the end is not even good enough for the Philistine Freddie. Meanwhile William apologizes for his earlier behaviour - "anger fades and is replaced by regret" - and very much wants her back. But Hester's heart is not in it. The movie is full of close-ups usually of just one or two characters in scenes permeated with rich dark often grainy tones. This could be a stage play. I'm always suspect of close-up shots in period movies because it means the director couldn't be bothered (or didn't have the money) to create larger realistic scenes. The acting is adequate and Weisz is particularly good. But the best scenes, or scene, is an elongated shot, when Hester, waiting at a tube station, fantasizes about what the station was like as a bomb shelter during the war. The camera tracks along the Aldwych station (now closed but long used in films, I've learned) platform and shows dozens of Londoners from every social class standing, sitting, singing, or playing cards, as they wait out the bombing. Hester, emotionally-fragile from the whole sordid arrangement, is the ultimate loser. Her cynical mother-in-law's advice seems to sum up the theme: "Beware of passion," the older woman says, since it always leads to tragedy. The film isn't a barrel of laughs and seems even claustrophobic for those who like probing the subtleties of relationships. It perhaps works best for keeners, like those who would be absorbed by the self-destruction of Sylvia Plath.

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