Paris, 1942. Robert Klein cannot find any fault with the state of affairs in German-occupied France. He has a well-furnished flat, a mistress, and business is booming. Jews facing ... See full summary »
The aristocratic Tony moves to London and hires the servant Hugo Barrett for all services at home. Barrett seems to be a loyal and competent employee, but Tony's girlfriend Susan does not like him and asks Tony to send him away. When Barrett brings his sister Vera to work and live in the house, Tony has a brief hidden affair with her. After traveling with Susan and spending a couple of days in a friend's house outside London, the couple unexpectedly returns and finds Barrett and Vera, who are actually lovers, in Tony's room. They are fired and Susan breaks with Tony. Later, Tony meets Barrett alone in a pub and hires him back, and Barrett imposes his real dark intentions in the house, turning the table and switching position with his master.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
An intimately crafted psychological drama, The Servant is a remarkable film that deserves to be seen by all. Written by Harold Pinter, based on a novel by Robin Maugham, it is a stunningly intelligent dissection of two men, the upper crust Tony (James Fox) and his new servant, Hugo Barrett (Dirk Bogarde). Through these two characters, Pinter's script unravels sharp ups and downs of class warfare and sexual games, as the two men constantly play a tug of war for power in all forms. When they first meet the two seem to hit it off quite well, falling comfortably into their positions of servant and master.
However, once Tony's fiancée Susan (Wendy Craig) comes into the mix and disapproves of Barrett, things start to become more conflicted. Then, Barrett's "sister" Vera (Sarah Miles) comes to move in and her true nature, as Barrett's lover, throws an even stronger rift between the two and their class positioning. The intrusion of these women sets off a descent from their idyllic lifestyle and the two men spend the rest of the time clashing with one another, the walls slowly closing in on this gripping and powerful study.
Director Joseph Losey makes great work of his tools here, using a lot of unique camera techniques like splitting the focus and viewing the characters through reflective surfaces rather than directly, which all serve to heighten the already high tension. The structure is bizarre and the final act gets surprisingly dark and borderline surreal, as the two engage in a series of fascinating interactions to further dissect the state of their dynamic. The Servant would be absolutely nothing without the performances of it's two men, and they both deliver in equal measures. The women are both superb as well, Craig being sharp and vicious, Miles being naive and sensual, but it's the boys show all the way through.
Bogarde is breathtaking, convincingly portraying the "gentleman's gentleman" of a butler at first but slowly turning more sinister and terrifying as time passes on. He plays all sides of this character with total life, always remaining a mystery to the audience as we are never sure whether he is fooling Tony and us or if he's being sincere at any given moment. There's a scene between him and Susan where she digs into him and the pain on his face, the emasculation, actually allows the viewer to feel deeply for what could have been a very unlikeable character.
Fox is no dull edge either, meeting Bogarde with a heartbreaking descent, falling from the mannered and composed young man we first meet into the shriveled and destroyed wreck by the end. The shifting dynamics between the two are always engaging, and Pinter embeds the film with just the right amount of emotion, comedy, terror and homoerotic subtext. It's a shattering work, marvelously performed by everyone involved.
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