Another Country tells the story of Guy Bennett (Rupert Everett) and Tommy Judd (Colin Firth), teenage friends at an elite English public school during the summer of 1931.
Clever, hedonistic and gay, Bennett is in his penultimate year of school and the future looks bright. He is convinced he will rise to the heights of his chosen career in the diplomatic service by eventually being appointed Ambassador in Paris. His best friend Judd, committed to Lenin's 'brave new world', despises such bourgeois aspirations.
Homosexuality, honesty and hypocrisy are the main themes in this coming-of-age film, based on the award winning play by Julian Mitchell.
This is an interesting film for British audiences because it exposes an unspoken element to the class struggle by looking inside the upper class and seeing division as opposed to monolith and uniformity. It is interesting for American audiences because it exposes a different world from the ones most Americans understand readily, but one not so far removed in terms of influence both politically and culturally. Most interesting is the interplay of the cultural elements, sometimes explicitly critiqued by the character Tommy (who doesn't quite do the Shakespearean aside to the audience, but whose commentary is obviously tailored more for the viewing audience than for the other characters at times); most of the time, however, the cultural elements are assumed and understood as natural by the characters, causing viewers outside the British upper class (and some of those in it) to ponder just what is going on with all of these.
One of the interesting things of the piece is that it is a questioning film, questioning the way society brings up its young, with the questioning being done by the young. However, for young people the ending is unsettling - Guy Bennett is in a small Moscow flat, having defected to the Soviet Union with intelligence secrets, effectively betraying his culture and nation; we discover that Tommy died in the Spanish Civil War fighting against Franco, and many of the other high-flyers in school end up as lack-luster and disappointing figures (even the one who makes it being a Cabinet minister somehow lacks the image of success - when one is trained from birth to take the highest office, is it really much of an achievement to attain it?).
It is a rather slow-moving film in terms of camera shots, and a rather conservative film in terms of cast and action (there are no car chases, no violence, no adult liasons other than hints and suggestions, etc.). It is one that has never made much of an impact on American audiences, and the British audiences who enjoyed the film were predominantly an older crowd.
The issues of metaphor, iconic imagery and modern society's method of making sense of imagery abound here. In particular, there is Baudrillard's idea of simulation - in a sense, the film Another Country is a simulation of a simulation: the film itself is a simulation of a sort, and the characters and school environment depicted are also a simulation of certain relationships and aspects that the world should, in the eyes of the community at large, take on even if it never really achieves the fullness (and indeed, would be unlikely to like the results if it should). This taps into the concept of hegemony drawn from critical analysis thinkers such as Gramsci and Williams.
The world in the film Another Country no longer exists. Of course, the world in Another Country never really existed, but was a cultural construct for the particular class. God rarely entered into the matter, apart from standard prayers at meal-times, awkward impromptu Bible study when something `immoral' had happened, and at times of personal or national crisis.
Stylish, well-acted, interesting in scope, this is an under-appreciated gem. Comparison has been made, rightly so, to the lavish Merchant-Ivory productions of E.M. Forster novels around the same time.
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