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This is a neat little story, beautifully acted by Susannah York and John Castle as the middle-aged couple who meet and fall in love. Unfortunately, the past returns to haunt them both and the ending comes as quite a shock. If it's shown again on TV, try and catch it.
Every once in a while, you find something competently done on TeeVee.
In this case, that excludes the story, which is pretty much without value. I suppose it was worth while in the original, where the book would allow all sorts of internal weaving of conflict and confusion.
The story is simply of a man who is haunted by an episode of his past: a woman he fell in love with, who left him and who he tried to kill.
He is now retired, comes back to the city of the event under an assumed name and has an affair with a widowed neighbor played by Susanna York. She is our designated watcher. There are some mild, ineffectual insights.
What's competent is how the writer and director chose to handle this altogether unengaging material. It seems to have been filmed only because TeeVee has this huge hole to be filled and the producers had the rights to every Rendell piece and were determined to film them all no matter what.
What's been done is to emphasize the architecture, and the notion of story in architecture. There are two architectural locations. One is a cathedral. York's character is a volunteer worker there. For years she has been quietly writing about the place, describing the stories in the fabric of the place from the perspective of those who built it. We are presented with this edifice visually as if it were a character. Doorways have significance. Passages and niches are not exploited well, but they are exploited. Clearly, the director wants us to conflate the magic of the place with the grinding fate that drives the story.
The York character is fascinated by one of those carved sepulchers that features a knight and his love. They are depicted holding hands. This is woven into the story several ways: visually, by explanation, in her writings and by a rather engaging Larkin poem.
The other architectural setting is the fellow's new house, which faces that of the York character. These two houses are faux Tudor style with massive arrays of windows facing each other. One can look from one house to the other and see most of what's inside, and nearly all comings and goings. I think the houses would be failures as houses, but as descriptive stages, they are a lucky find. These two settings: the houses and the cathedral, are pretty much it, just as the two characters are.
York's placement in the thing is a matter of genius. If you cannot recall, she was something of a phenomenon for a few years in the 60s and early seventies. She was extremely effective and affecting "They Shoot Horses," and then she faded quickly, working constantly but in third rate TeeVee. Here she plays someone that evokes and carries agency from the past, a ghost from the past.
Its linked to exuberant sex on both sides. Its linked (with songs from the era) to when she was sexually powerful.
To my mind, I would rather have something like this: a powerfully, intelligent presentation of thin material than cinematically and theatrically incompetent shaping of potentially promising material.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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