on 13 June 2014
In a time in which British theatre was crushed and stifled by censorship, Terence Rattigan wrote this play, which shot straight to the heart about love, passion and society. Whilst fellow Terrence- the director Terrence Davies- brings out many of the plays undertones that I feel are lost in the 1955 film version and the 1994 BBC one, he also loses some threads and too heavily insists on the comparisons with Brief Encounter (even though the source play doesn't bear much resemblance).
Davies clearly has a festishistic love for post-war 1950s Britain; the drab and the gloom is lovingly shot. The dinginess means that Davies can pull Brief-Encounter moments, where the adulterous couple Hester (Rachel Weisz) and Freddie (Tom Hiddleston) illicitly steal kisses on the street. I enjoyed the pub songs; in particular a scene that cuts from a pub singing along to a romantic song from that era to Freddie and Hester dancing to a lush record of it. The daze and excitement of the affair is captured nicely.
The sense of a society still recovering from the war and still living off ration books is integral to the play so in that respect Davies is well-suited. However it's the story that gets a bit lost; as does the viewer. In order to escape its stage origins (the play takes place over the course of a night with the action set solely in the living room), Davies uses lots of flashbacks. So whilst in the play, we only find out that Freddie is not Hester's husband, as she has been pretending, but her lover, in the film it's clear from the start. They later include a dramatisation of a scene mentioned in the play, in which their landlady discovers the deception, but it seemed a bit pointless.
This also confuses the thrust of the narrative, which is the charting and comparisons between Hester's relationship with Freddie and with her judge husband, Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale). In the play we know that Hester's affair with Freddie is dead from the start and was probably never alive to begin with (when Collyer asks if Freddie's feelings for her had changed, Hester tellingly replies "They couldn't have. Zero minus zero is still zero"). However the film makes the flashbacks and the present blurred, so we only see a little bit of the end of the affair- even though the story is about how people rebuild their lives after a loss. Beale gets this across most effectively, as Collyer struggles to comprehend Hester's affair but resigns himself to the fact that he has lost her. The problem of the marriage- its sexlessness- is emphasised as being an unsurmountable obstacle by casting Beale as Collyer (in the play Collyer is 45 and Hester is in her mid 30s- not a massive age gap). She loves him and her respectable life but without the intimacy of physical contact, it was never going to work.
Freddie, an ex-fighter pilot, provides the physical side but not the emotional one. Hiddlestone conveys Freddie's love for the good old days of the war and its camaraderie effectively, and also conveys his childishness though not to the extent that he could have. The play suggests that Hester uses Freddie to fill the role of son as well as lover and that the strain of having to be all these things to her is what pushes Freddie to leave. The balance of the film means that the dynamic most frequently shown between them is of Freddie being in charge, whereas Hester is actually dominant, even if her control is slipping away. Though Kenneth More in the 1955 film is a lot less attractive, his character is more nuanced. Like Anna Karenina, Hester's tragedy is the inequality of love; a concept which Freddie doesn't fully comprehend. In some ways Freddie and Collyer are very alike in that they feel Hester wants too much.
Rachel Weisz is well-cast as Hester, though she lacks some of Hester's desparate ruthlessness. In the play Hester is trying to gain her independence; she paints and sells her paintings and refuses to go back to Collyer despite things being essentially over with Freddie. Weisz is too often called to play the weepy lover and takes too readily to it; Hester is not naturally weepy. Her feeling of self-loathing over how she has lost herself over Freddie is clear in the play but not so clear here. There's also a distinct lack of sexual predatoriness here, whereas Hester constantly pesters Freddie in the play and is almost embarrassing. Though the film has every right to differ from the play, losing these nuances in the character means that the play becomes just another love triangle.
Though I love the characters in the play, I think Davies made the right decision to cut nosy neighbours Ann and Phillip, as they are very much theatrical characters. It was odd of him to half leave in the mysterious Dr Miller (Karl Johnson). It is stated that the doctor isn't really a doctor but nothing is ever made of that. Either have the doctor be a generic doctor figure or leave in his intriguing backstory (the doctor proves to be an outcast just like Hester).
I think the film is worth a watch for fans of the play but I don't know if enough of the nuances are captured here for other viewers to appreciate it- even though many of Rattigan's gorgeous lines are left in.
on 2 January 2012
The stately, almost staccato pace of some of Terence Davies' films can make them difficult to watch; the technique occasionally feels like a none-too-subtle attempt to imbue scenes with an importance they might not otherwise possess. Fortunately, in The Deep Blue Sea, it works extremely well, helping to punctuate the shift between the past and the present, stave off sentimentality and reflect the main character's state of mind. Set soon after the Second World War, this adaptation of Terence Rattigan's play examines twenty-four hours in the life of Hester as she recovers from a failed suicide attempt and looks back on an ill-fated love affair with an RAF pilot. Rachel Weisz is mesmerising in the lead role - using an unusual accent and dreamy vocal delivery to suggest Hester's leap into unconventionality - but Simon Russell Beale and Tom Hiddleston (a rising star, if ever there was one) are equally affecting. A moving, melancholy and quite beautiful piece of work.
on 22 June 2015
This is a beautiful, moving film. Terence Davies is one of the few really great directors this country seems to possess and it's crazy how hard he has struggled for financing for his work. When he made this film in 2011 he'd been 'unemployed' as he put it in an interview for about a decade if you discount his documentary about his native Liverpool.
As with most of his films, the story isn't told via a linear narrative but instead unfolds via a thread of interconnected memories and is told entirely from the point of view of Hester, the main female character. She is a woman of around 40, married to an older man of wealth, status and culture, who suddenly discovers what it is to fall passionately in love. She leaves her husband only to find that her new relationship has its own limitations.
Her new partner, a former Battle of Britain pilot, is a man of action who is a fish out of water in the art galleries that Hester enjoys visiting. He is struggling to find a place in post-war society and so after being used to a life of luxury she finds herself living in a shabby boarding house. Whereas her older husband accommodated and indulged her, her new younger partner expects to be the one accommodated and indulged. In effect, there is a role reversal which eventually pushes Hester to grow up.
The actors all give wonderful performances. Rachel Weisz won or was nominated for numerous awards for hers and Tom Hiddleston is very good as her ex-pilot lover. The stand out though is Simon Russell Beale as Hester's husband. He is gentle, pompous, vulnerable, conventional, loyal... as real a person as I've seen on film. His attempts to win Hester back - sensitive and at the same time clumsy - are heartbreaking.
It's not a long film, only about an hour and half long, but it's one of the best i've seen this decade. Aside from the actors' performances there is the film's beauty. Davies' use of colour is one of the most striking things. They are simultaneously dreary and sumptuous. In an interview included on the DVD, Davies talks about how important getting this aspect right was to making the film feel authentic. There are lots of blues, greys and a strange mustard yellow.
And then amongst that there is Hester's claret red coat, which stands out from its surroundings in the same way that Hester stands out from hers. In the end she seems neither to belong in her husband's world - cultured but rigid with etiquette - or her lover's world. She is as ill at ease in a pub as she was at dinner with her mother-in-law. The film leaves it open as to what her future will be. There's no reassurance that the self-understanding she has gained with automatically guarantee her happiness and possibly even a suggestion that it won't.
on 20 November 2013
I expected too much from this film. I thought it would contain a thoughtful script, a well-told story, great acting, and really good period detail and post-war feel to the sets. It has all of those things, but, for some reason, it is a huge disappointment as a movie. It is terribly slow, the camera lingering indulgently over some scenes which don't seem to deserve the attention they get. There is comparatively little dialogue, which is a pity, as the inclusion of a little more talking might help to convince the viewer of exactly what the beautiful and cultured Hester Collyer sees in the irritating, childish, selfish wastrel for whom she falls so completely and disastrously. It cannot even be explained by the possibility that she just fancied a bit of rough, because he doesn't fall into that category, either. Ultimately, I was left no wiser at the end, and very irritated at all the lingering scenes of Hester standing and staring into the middle distance while the violin concerto soundtrack squeals dramatically over the top. In short, the communication of the story is too restrained, while everything else is overblown. The film could have been cut by forty minutes and lost nothing.
on 19 November 2013
I watched this film because Tom Hiddleston was in it - I admit it! However, I was very pleasantly surprised by the sensitive portrayal of the damaged characters portrayed by Hiddleston and Weiss. The musical score at the beginning is very irritating, but once you get past this and settle in to the film, the quality of the direction stands out. Piece by tiny piece, the histories of the main characters are revealed, explaining why such a passionate affair deteriorates until the lovers begin to tear each other apart. Please watch this film, it will surprise you and will be the kind of film you will want to come back to again.
Although I was expecting a brittle and dated unhappy love affair, this remake of Rattigan's play proves quite moving up to a point. Set around 1950, the film starts with the attempted suicide of Hester Collyer, privileged wife of a high court judge who has sacrificed her reputation and material comforts to live in a dreary flat with Freddie, a former wartime pilot who beneath his charming veneer is finding it hard to adjust to a mundane life in civvy street .
The plot gradually reveals through a series of flashbacks how Hester has been reduced to despair. At first, it is hard to understand how this beautiful young woman could have married such a stiff man as William Collyer, not to mention the fact he is old enough to be her father. Then we wonder how such a cultured woman can be so infatuated with a man like Freddie who, apart from his thoughtless neglect of her, prefers downing pints and singing along in a working class pub to visiting an art gallery with her or listening to classical music. Is it just a question of passion and lust, applied through fate to a man who cannot make her happy in the long-term?
Although acted with great sensitivity by Rachel Weisz, Hester is an odd mixture of sophisticated self-possession and neediness, and comes across at times as just a "poor little rich girl". By contrast, the two men, ably played by Simon Russell Beale and newcomer Tom Hiddleston reveal complex reactions in a way that eventually arouses as much, if not more, sympathy.
The set plays close attention to period detail, although the Barber score at the beginning is too loud and intrusive, as is too often the case with films, and the flashback to people taking refuge in an underground station during the Blitz is too much of a romanticised tableau.
A modern version of the theme of a married woman forming a passionate physical attachment to an "unsuitable" man is covered with more depth and subtlety in "Leaving", the French drama starring Kristin Scott Thomas. "The Deep Blue Sea" left me feeling rather sad, but a little dissatisfied as if Rattigan's drama had not achieved its potential.
on 25 February 2015
I have mixed feelings abut this film..I realize the book was written some time ago and the themes of searching for the man who will give you enough to keep you alive have been filmed and written about many times before.
That said, Rachel Weisz played the main role with appropriate depth. It was clear that this beautiful woman, who had married a caring but rigid father figure - and his family, was bored to the point of psychosis, in that her life was always hanging by a thread and the possibility of suicide as a way out of her internal and external prison lurked around her, like a ghost.
Meeting an edgy, unreliable, young man, who was attracted by but also refused to become part of her drama, proved to be her downfall and the ending almost a self fulfilling prophecy: her demise.
This was all very dramatic and predictable.
If I have one criticism, it is that I think Tom Hiddleston, one of my favourite actors, was miscast in this film. I did not find them a credible pair and I did not think that this was one of his better films. While Rachel Weisz, was magnificant, as was her long-suffering but boring and pompous husband, who also had problems in that he had not yet untied the apron strings from his mother, and, though a High Court Judge, had little autonomy in his own home.
All the characters were trapped in some way, beyond the relationships themselves. Even the Tom Hiddleston character, who was resisting becoming part of the drama, created drama himself through his inability to attach.
Couple all this with the drama and nostalgia of war time London, and you have a melting pot, which foregrounds pulling together during air-raids, while the internal worlds of individuals are falling apart unnoticed.
Told in flashbacks, with scenes in the present alternating with the past, Terence Davies's intelligent adaptation of the wildly successful Rattigan play is a moody, thoughtful, believable delight.
The extra features tell us that the director cast Rachel Weisz after having spotted her on TV, and finding her 'luminous'. That she is, and her performance as Hester, caught between her devoted but dull husband and energetic, dashing lover in wartime England,
is a thing of wonder. Her scenes with both Simon Russell Beale and Tom Hiddleston (guess who's the husband!) have a truthfulness to them which most films wouldn't take the trouble to explore with such delicacy or subtlety. SRB is at his most moving in these scenes, playing wealthy judge Sir William Collier, the 'good' man spurned, to perfection. We can see and sense the rage and hurt he barely holds in, just as we can empathise with the occasionally maddening Hester, a passionate woman caught between the devil and the dangerously alluring depths of the title.
Hiddleston is pitch-perfect too as Freddie, an excellent portrayal of a handsome young flier who can't quite match Hester's commitment, and is too often swayed by her siren-like voice, which cajoles and persuades as it caresses and seduces.
But this is a story of any of us, torn by a maddening love. Though it's setting is post-war forties London, like any story it has resonances for anyone who has endured such passions or been cast aside for love.
Other roles are filled by actors not seen enough in films, such as Ann Mitchell as Hester's sympathetic landlady, Karl Johnson as another tenant and, in a brilliant cameo, veteran actress Barbara Jefford as William's controlling mother.
But it is Weisz who makes the film work, the luminosity her director saw in her paying dividends in full, the merest glance or flicker of a smile speaking all the lines Davies has justifiably left out of his sensitive adaptation.
It's a dark, dimly-lit film, but there is some light too...
Bafflingly overlooked by Bafta and the Oscars - but what do they know? - this is a gem, and as rich a film as this director's earlier, criminally neglected The House of Mirth. If your attention span is short, you probably won't like it. Others form an orderly queue.
on 6 April 2012
It was not to be expected that a director with Terence Davies' background and reputation would be content to make a straightforward film version of Terence Rattigan's classic stage play, set in 1950's London, about a woman who cannot find true love either with her decent but dull husband, a High Court judge, or the rather flashy younger man, an ex-RAF pilot, with whom she embarks on a passionate affair. Avoiding the linear approach altogether, Davies opts for a sort of fragmented memory play, deriving from the starting point of the woman's attempted suicide. It works only to a degree : there are added scenes and characters (the judge's snooty mother, a wartime sequence in an Underground station etc) which are really quite superfluous to the main narrative. Moreover, other characters are omitted and one, a disgraced 'doctor' who plays a key role in the original play, is reduced almost to a cipher. The movie's principal merits are a convincing evocation of the general drabness of the period (although with rather too many darkly-lit scenes); the eloquent use of the beautiful slow movement of Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto; a quietly moving portrayal of the wronged husband by Simon Russell Beale; and a luminous performance by Rachel Weisz as the woman who finally finds the courage to give up the man she loves. The DVD includes a number of extras (interviews etc) which are useful, if predictable. Overall, the movie lacks the sustained intensity of the original but is an improvement on the rather literal and unsuitably widescreen 1955 film version.
on 27 November 2013
I haven't seen the play so can't comment on comparisons, but this film is quite beautiful. Rachel Weiss is wonderful in everything, and this is no exception. Mr. Hiddleston is exceptional and the rest of the cast are brilliant. I suppose my only problem is with the characters - and this is not due to the actors, but the writing. Are we supposed to like them? The only person I could actually sympathise with was Hester's husband. She was a fool, Freddie was a child in a man's body and their friends were vapid. It's definitely worth a watch, but prepare to be depressed!