Comfort of Strangers Reviews
The Comfort of Strangers (1990) is based on the Ian McEwan's novel of the same name. Basically, the story is about Colin and Mary, a young couple who travel to Venice on a vacation to think about their future together. In Venice, they encounter an older couple, Robert and Caroline, who eventually turn their vacation and relationship upside down. I do not want to rant about how different Pinter's screenplay is from McEwan's novel. This is a closed deal. What strikes me as supremely beautiful is how Pinter manages to bring to light such psychological intensity and incendiary conflicts using the subtlest language imagined. It is almost like watching poetry in motion if that makes any sense.
It is out of the question that Pinter would not have accomplished that effect without Paul Schrader's exquisite talent, who is a screenwriter himself by the way (does Taxi Driver and Raging Bull ring a bell?). Schrader succeeds in giving Pinter's world the required mystical substance; the long and medium shots of the charming Venice, the camera pauses, the movement of actors, the choice of subliminal music... it all contributes to creating this metaphysical atmosphere felt only in classic paintings. Have you noticed the similarity between shots of Mary and Colin in bed and the paintings adoring the walls of Robert's apartment?... You're welcome.
The gender and power conflict that takes place in this kind of world is all symbolic and is expressed in allusions rather than direct words. Colin, played to good effect by Rupert Everett, is meant to be beautiful in picturesque way akin to that of Greek statues. His beautiful masculinity is to be contrasted with Robert's (played by the genius Christopher Walken) grotesque masculinity. Same can be said about Mary (Natasha Richardson) and Caroline (Helen Mirren) who represents two different aspects of femininity: passivity and servitude. The encounter between the young couple and their older counterparts might seem a little bit awkward in realistic narrative terms. Like seriously, who would go sleep at a strangers' house and let them take their clothes away? However, in symbolic terms, this confrontation is necessary to highlight the gender fluidity and power conflict in any relationship. Robert and Caroline are the distorted mirror that Colin and Mary see themselves into. They see the dark side of who they are and their future demise. The image they see in the mirror terrifies them and subconsciously pushes them to change to the opposite - to exchange roles. Colin sees in Robert the extreme end of masculinity and power he has been trying to practice on Mary. He becomes threatened and retreats to his beautiful, feminine self (something that Caroline and later Mary keeps referring to). Similarly, Mary sees in Caroline the extreme end of her docility and indecisiveness. She also becomes threatened and embraces her masculine self. This subversion of roles is quite evident in Colin and Mary's later sexual encounters and fantasies.
Whether this change was necessary or not and whether it has been brought about by the wrong catalyst (Robert and Caroline) or not are all questions Pinter leaves us with to ponder on. I do not care about the answers of those questions as much as I care about how enlightening and fascination watching this film has been.
i have seen it but i don't remember much about it, it wasn't the best. the movie was plain bore and wasn't going anywhere.