In a dreary North London flat, the site of perpetual psychological warfare, a philosophy professor visits his family after a nine-year absence and introduces the four men - father, uncle and two brothers - to his wife.
Max is a surly pensioner who alternately venerates and vilifies his dead wife. Sam, his brother, is a supercilious chauffeur. Lenny is a smiling, snake-like pimp. Joey is a thick-witted, would-be boxer. These four men live together in a North London flat, the site of their perpetual sadomasochistic battle of words and sometimes physical violence. And then after nine years, Max's third son, Teddy, a philosophy professor living in California, comes back home for a visit. He brings his wife, Ruth. She is immediately drawn in to the family's ugly psychological games and quickly proves a worthy opponent. Soon, the game involves both of Teddy's brothers taking extreme liberties with Ruth, as the coiled Teddy obstinately refuses to spoil the malicious fun by objecting. Written by
Ian Holm won the 1967 Tony award (New York City) for Supporting or Features Actor in a Drama for "The Homecoming" as Lenny and recreated in this filmed production. See more »
You go and ask my customers! I'm the only one they ever ask for.
What do the other drivers do, sleep all day?
I can only drive one car. They can't all have me at the same time.
Anyone could have you at the same time. You'd bend over for half a dollar on Blackfriars Bridge.
For two bob and a toffee apple.
He's insulting me. He's insulting his brother. I'm driving a man to Hampton Court at four forty-five.
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'The Homecoming' is perhaps Pinter's greatest play. It still seems as impenetrable and unfathomably disturbing as when first performed. As if Pinter had managed to haul it straight up from the murky waters of his subconscious without allowing it to be filtered through the clarifying, taming grilles of symmetry and craft.
A few of the other commentators have questioned whether it works as a piece of 'cinema'. But with writing and acting this vital and rich the query becomes redundant. It's a filmed record of a stage play in which color and framing are used to provide texture and ambiance for the text. The absence of any unnecessary cinematic flourishes contributes to the stark, claustrophobic atmosphere.
I would argue that the piece is more effective here, atmospherically speaking at least, than it ever could be on stage. The screen filling close-ups, slow fades to black, and subtle, almost imperceptible camera movement all add the palpable sense of entrapment, tension and menace.
The performances are all majestic. But my favourite is the astonishing one given by the wonderful Vivien Merchant. Her work in this and Sidney Lumet's 'The Offence' (in the same year) stand, for me, as being amongst the greatest performances given on screen by any actor. Ever. She can switch from poignantly lost and alone, to ironic, to chillingly manipulative with a glance. Whilst always radiating an almost heartbreaking aura of emotional privation and defeat. Her premature death was a genuine tragedy.
Am I alone in finding such a spare, bleak work so strangely comforting, even uplifting? I hope not.
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