Top positive review
178 people found this helpful
on 12 October 2006
This film was previously unknown to me. It is a high quality historical drama, and deserves to be better known. It's a subtle, gently paced film, which conveys much in only an hour and a half.
The film depicts a country house weekend shooting party, in the autumn of 1913. It explores some of the tensions that existed in British society in the run up to World War I. The personal relationships between the upper class characters are interesting, and provide rich sub-plots. The film also illustrates the strong bond of respect that existed between the rural working class and the landed gentry.
One wonderful aspect of the film is the mature cast. James Mason, Dorothy Tutin, John Gielgud, Edward Fox, Gordon Jackson and Frank Windsor all radiate effortless charisma. They are true character actors, and are totally absorbing.
I won't spoil the plot by describing the full story but to give you a flavour of the film, one of the sub-plots involves Judi Bowker and Robert Hardy, as a married couple who seem to have a strong affection and respect for each other, yet are distanced by their age gap and differing intellects. A meeting of minds sees Bowker become drawn to Rupert Frazer, and they embark on a passionate, but non-physical, affair. It is interesting to watch this slowly unfold, and the fact it doesn't end happily adds emotion to the film's conclusion.
The line of guns, onto which birds are systematically herded to their death, is a simile of the impending Great War, where the youth of both sides would walk forward only to be shot to pieces by machine gun and artillery.
Further pathos is added by the unnecessary competition between two guns, Edward Fox and Rupert Frazer, leading to the death of one of the beaters. This storyline again echoes the fruitlessness of World War I, which would see the civilisations of Europe fight a terrible war in which they had everything to lose, yet had nothing to gain.
Regarding the DVD itself, the picture quality is good and the extras are excellent; a worthy memorial to the film and its cast.