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On a rainy London night in 1946, novelist Maurice Bendrix has a chance meeting with Henry Miles, husband of his ex-mistress Sarah, who abruptly ended their affair two years before. Bendrix's obsession with Sarah is rekindled; he succumbs to his own jealousy and arranges to have her followed. Written by
"This is a diary of hate," is the opening line of this film, said by the main character and narrator, novelist Maurice Bendrix(Ralph Fiennes). That opening line tells you this is, or should be, a tale of passion. The novel by Graham Greene the film is based on is certainly a novel of passion, though much of it is within, and hard to dramatize in a film. But if any director could do it, surely it could be Neil Jordan, who makes films which overflow with passion(with the exception of MICHAEL COLLINS, but that was a different kind of film); even his disaster IN DREAMS was a failure of excess. And yet this film doesn't really come to life until maybe at the end.
Contrary to what one comment said, it isn't because Greene isn't relevant. Adultery will always be with us, and therefore always ripe for stories of any kind, and Greene told it in a way which is still fresh today. And Jordan makes the interesting decision to shoot the film in mostly medium shots or close-ups, rather than in panoramic wide shots, perhaps to fit the setting(London) or make you feel events are crowding the characters. But if you're going to take a microscope to your characters, you better show something, and Jordan really doesn't. Instead, he relies too much on narration and conventional storytelling(contrast this with how he adapted THE BUTCHER BOY), and until we get to hear the story from Sarah's point of view, we don't get a sense of what drives these people.
Fiennes is one of my favorite actors, but he doesn't do anything distinctive here. Only at the end does he truly come alive. Moore is also a favorite, but she too has little to work with until the story shifts to her point of view. And even when we find out about Sarah's fate, it wasn't moving enough. The ones who really come through are Rea, who not only has a note-perfect British accent, but is terrific as someone who, as he puts it, is not a lover. And Ian Hart brings some comic relief as the detective hired to follow Sarah. But this is definitely a disappointment; IN DREAMS I hated as well, but that could be dismissed as an experiment which went wrong, while this film should be the type of film Jordan excels at, but doesn't here.
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