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Inferior to the Michael Redgrave film, very good all the same
Terence Rattigan has very quickly become one of my favourite playwrights, his dialogue is so intelligent, witty and meaty, his characterisation so dynamic, complex and real and the storytelling so beautifully constructed.
'The Browning Version' is an example of Rattigan at his best. Also think extremely highly of 'The Winslow Boy' and 'Separate Tables. Rattigan is also at his best when laying bare deep emotional and psychological strains in his principal characters within a skillful dramatic framework, of which 'The Browning Version' is the epitome of.
While the Michael Redgrave film is to me vastly superior and the best version of this brilliant play as well as one of the finest film versions or adaptations of any of Rattigan's plays, this 1985 version is very good all the same. The photography is somewhat of the time in picture quality but still beautifully shot and the suitably confined one-set and costumes are very handsomely produced.
Like the fabulous 1976 adaptation of 'The Winslow Boy', with Eric Porter and Alan Badel, 'The Browning Version' occasionally falls into stodginess, pacing is tighter in the Michael Redgrave film, but mostly it's deliberate but compelling. Rattigan's superb writing, dynamic between the characters and consummate attention to very complex characterisation shines through wonderfully here and really keeps things afloat.
As do the performances. Ian Holm is a stern and moving Crocker-Harris, his suffering wonderfully nuanced, and Steven Mackintosh is entertaining and appealing as Taplow, even with a not-particularly-great but somewhat amusing impersonation of Crocker-Harris which is acknowledged actually in the writing. Michael Kitchen has never looked so young and plays the role with charm and one truly admires him towards the end in his standing up to Mrs Crocker-Harris.
Personally was less keen on Judi Dench. She is a favourite of mine, but her performance is a bit too broad and like it belongs somewhere else, also even for a character intended to be like it she has never been more cold and unlikeable and it was somewhat of a turn-off to be honest.
Overall, very good but the Redgrave film captures the essence of the play much more. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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