John Halder, a German literature professor in the 1930s, is initially reluctant to accept the ideas of the Nazi Party. He is pulled in different emotional directions by his wife, mother, mistress and Jewish friend.
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The second in a trilogy of movies about Elisabeth "Sissi" of Austria, the film chronicles the married life of the young empress as she tries to adjust to formal and strict life in the palace and an overbearing mother-in-law.
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In the 1930s Ricky Masters, an English businessman, marries Madeleine, a fine match socially, but the cultured aesthete is more and more attracted to her sister Dinah, a 'Bohemian' painter, and as they spend time together their affair becomes physical, even all the way; yet when she gets pregnant they decide to leave his marriage intact. He raises his son with Madeleine, who tells him only in 1946 that she knew after he had a car accident during a 'business trip' to southern France that caused Dinah to loose her unborn daughter; now Ricky wants to leave Madeleine, but she refuses a divorce; after a time in hospital he is told Dinah chose to move back to France without him while she's really living in London, still not the last twist of the drama...Written by
The BBC Agains Shows Why There'll Always be an England (on celluloid)
I've heard that Western religious dogma eschews the thought never mind the act of a man lusting for his neighbor's wife. What really rocks the boat is a married man sappily and hopelessly enmeshed in the arms of his wife's sister. And that's what we have in this dark hued English drama whose scenes alternate between the pre-war social frivolity of affluent men and women unaware that their time was almost up and postwar scenes tieing the story together.
Helena Bonham Carter is Dinah, a free spirit given to studying, and perhaps evangelizing, the gospel of malcontents and revolutionaries in that nonthreatening and oddly endearing manner that insures both bemusement and acceptance by well-to-do English gentlefolk. Olivia Williams is her married sister, Madeleine, a hostess with the mostess, married to businessman Rickie, played by Paul Bettany.
The focus of the film is on this trio, not a menage a trois but a coruscating set of characters wracked by love, lust and confusion leavened by sporadic betrayal and reconciliation.
It's really simple: Rickie sort of loves or at least very much likes Madeleine but his heart and other body parts desperately seek and need Dinah. Dinah loves her sister and her charming adolescent son but she must have Rickie. Madeleine loves both but is blind to the reality of their relationship until... A story of this genre must have a clear and unambiguous "until."
Directed by Thaddeus O'Sullivan, the acting of the three principals is, simply, mesmerizingly superb. Helena Bonham Carter is renowned for her period pieces (she can do much more and she does) and she fits into London's prewar world and its gray aftermath as if she actually experienced those times. Paul Bettany captures the lost male guided by his...ah, lust, with but minimal if any moral insight into his conduct. Special mention must be made of Olivia Williams who captures the pathos, hope and desperation of a decent woman swept up by acts of betrayal she never envisaged as possible. I hope we see much more of this fine actress.
The score by Nicholas Hooper is very good but judicious editing was needed to reduce intrusiveness of the music and the sound level ought to have been lowered for a number of scenes.
A fine production.
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