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Summer 1900: Queen Victoria's last and the summer Leo turns 13. He's the guest of Marcus, a wealthy classmate, at a grand home in rural Norfolk. Leo is befriended by Marian, Marcus's twenty-something sister, a beauty about to be engaged to Hugh, a viscount and good fellow. Marian buys Leo a forest-green suit, takes him on walks, and asks him to carry messages to and from their neighbor, Ted Burgess, a bit of a rake. Leo is soon dissembling, realizes he's betraying Hugh, but continues as the go-between nonetheless, asking adults naive questions about the attractions of men and women. Can an affair between neighbors stay secret for long? And how does innocence end? Written by
Nicely composed English meditation on history, memory and sex
Losey/Pinter's adaptation of LP Hartley's novel follows Leo, invited to spend the summer with his upper crust schoolfriend's family in Norfolk. He contracts a bit of a crush on Julie Christie's Marian (his friend's older sister) and consequently gets drawn into the awkward, tacit love triangle between her fiancée Trimingham (Fox) and masculine local farmer Ted (Bates). Losey interpolates brief, silent flash-forwards to the present day as Leo revisits the area to speak with Marian in her dotage.
If one has seen, or, more pertinently, read Atonement (Joe Wright's film on Ian McEwan's book) then you'll be familiar with the themes and, in part, composition of The Go-Between. Leo divines the sexual tension and intent of the relationship between Marian and Ted but, being not only young but also uninitiated in the implicit obligations of the upper class, cannot understand why Marian is simultaneously agreeing to her union with Trimingham. Unlike Atonement, Leo doesn't wilfully interfere with the relationships. Instead he does act as a catalyst that allows them to happen and is consequently affected by the outcome
the final sequence is a dryly tragic denouement which recalls the TV
interview epilogue of Atonement; only here there is no atonement to be made or had.
The film is beautifully and unequivocally shot. The past may indeed be a different country, as the voice-over tells us but it's not a figment of the imagination. The acting is very good, with the exception of the younger Maudsleys who are weak. Michel Legrand's score is a cunning set of neo-baroque variations for piano, rendered oppressively rather like the society and heat. Losey's handling of the drizzled flash-forwards is a beautifully rendered conceit that really makes the film for me: wistful, English and eloquent. 7/10
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