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A timeless classic,
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This review is from: Accident [DVD] (DVD)
Joseph Losey's partnership with Pinter(as screenwriter) came from their similar attitudes to the English class system. This was the second of their 3 collaborations.Losey was left wing and had a distinctive European sensibility. He also uses two European actresses, Delphine Seyrig and Jaqueline Sassard.This is his masterpiece, based on a Nicholas Mosley novel . Pinter takes the austerity of the novel with its minimal dialogue and explores what is not said and what is not done.The film starts with an accident, and Stephen a middle-aged Oxford don( who teaches philosophy), finds the overturned car outside his property. Two of his students,William and Anna, were on their way to see him. William is dead and Stephen(Bogarde), rescues Anna(Sassard),who had been driving and is drunk and has no license to drive.Stephen is the only one who knew she was driving or in the car at all.He protects Anna from the consequences, by taking her to his house(his wife Vivian Merchant is in hospital,pregnant). In the event, the police do not find out that Anna was either in, or driving the car. There follows flash-backs leading up to the event.
Stephen is married with two children and one on the way. He is comfortable, and lives in a beautiful house.He likes his two aristocratic students, William(a very good Yorke)and Anna,an Austrian princess, who he teaches philosophy. He acts as a go-between for the two of them.Stephen has a competitive relationship with his friend Charley(Baker) an academic and novelist who appears on TV and is married. Stephen learns that Charley is having an affair with Anna. He encourages Charley to make things up with his wife.What is noticeable about this film is it hasn't aged and could have been made yesterday. It steers clear of the swinging 60s clichés, common to films made then.To Stephen and Charley much of human behaviour is to do with the playing of games. Shows of communication were not much more than the playing of games.We get lots of shots of them playing tennis,cricket and with William, indoor rugby.There are beautifully filmed episodes of punting on the river, with young women and family picnics and country walks, showing the rituals of English behaviour. Suppressed feelings are acted out in the rituals and games. Stephen is attracted to Anna and would like to seduce her.
In the novel he is faithful to his wife and loves her and maybe hasn't the nerve of the more extrovert Charley. Anna announces she will marry William -in some sort of revenge. Everything is restrained and understated. Allusion and indirection dominate, e.g. Stephen's tryst in London with Francesca(Seyrig), where a voiceover of banal small talk takes the place of what is really happening.What happens to Anna after the accident? Stephen appears to rape her, although he doesn't sleep with her in the novel.Pinter explained to Mosley why they felt this was structurally necessary:it economised and compressed and intensified the drama. Otherwise, they adhered faithfully to the novel. Sassard has an iconic,languorous beauty, and is merely an instrument for the men,her acting appears wooden.Mosley's idea to salvage anything from the disaster, was for Stephen to not sleep with Anna. What works in a novel doesn't always work on film. Bogarde felt he played the best role of his career as Stephen, with his repressed sexuality and mid-life crisis.Baker is phenomenal as the very physical and extrovert Charley.There is a real tension between these two actors. Vivian Merchant is brilliant as the all- knowing Rosalind. Losey places himself up there with Resnais and Antonioni.Pinter's use of memory and time showed the preoccupation of his plays.He gives a cameo performance as a TV producer.This film was the winner of the 1967 Grand Jury Prize at Cannes.Deservedly so.