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The Servant (1963)

Unrated | | Drama | 16 March 1964 (USA)
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An upper-class man hires a servant who turns out to have a hidden agenda.

Director:

Joseph Losey

Writers:

Harold Pinter (screenplay), Robin Maugham (novel)
Won 3 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 5 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Dirk Bogarde ... Barrett
Sarah Miles ... Vera
Wendy Craig ... Susan
James Fox ... Tony
Catherine Lacey ... Lady Mounset
Richard Vernon ... Lord Mounset
Ann Firbank ... People in restaurant: Society Woman
Doris Nolan ... People in restaurant: Older Woman (as Doris Knox)
Patrick Magee ... People in restaurant: Bishop
Jill Melford Jill Melford ... People in restaurant: Younger Woman
Alun Owen Alun Owen ... People in restaurant: Curate
Harold Pinter ... People in restaurant: Society Man
Derek Tansley Derek Tansley ... People in restaurant: Head Waiter
Brian Phelan Brian Phelan ... Man in Pub
Hazel Terry Hazel Terry ... Woman in Bedroom
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Storyline

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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A Terrifyingly Beautiful Motion Picture! See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 March 1964 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Der Diener See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,426, 23 August 2013, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$35,748, 6 September 2013
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Joseph Losey's 10th film shot in the UK after he was blacklisted in Hollywood. See more »

Goofs

When Barrett first enters the house, Tony takes his legs down twice before standing up. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Hugo Barrett: Excuse me, sir. My name is Barrett, sir.
Tony: Oh God, of course. I'm so sorry. I fell asleep. We've got an appointment.
Hugo Barrett: Yes, sir.
Tony: What time?
Hugo Barrett: 3'o clock, sir.
Tony: And what time is now?
Hugo Barrett: 3'o clock, sir.
Tony: Uh, it was too many beers at lunch, that's what it is. Do you drink beer?
Hugo Barrett: No. No, I don't sir.
[...]
See more »

Connections

Featured in Dirk Bogarde: By Myself (1992) See more »

Soundtracks

All Gone
Cleo Laine sings
Music by John Dankworth (uncredited)
Lyrics by Harold Pinter (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A stunning achievement.
9 March 2012 | by Rockwell_CronenbergSee all my reviews

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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