The Servant Reviews
Good build up to what I was hoping was going to be a very powerful and/or profound ending. Characters are given depth and are dynamic in their personalities. There is a decent degree of engagement and the plot develops well, albeit slowly.
I was happy to take the slow-burning nature of the movie, figuring there would be a big pay-off at the end. Unfortunately, the end doesn't quite reward you for your patience. It does demonstrate how the dynamic between the master and servant has shifted, and how significantly, but that's it, and it's not really a surprise. I really was hoping for something more explosive at the end.
I had a hard time sympathizing with Fox's character who seemed to be creating all of the problems for himself for no real reason other than laziness. I didn't buy his transition to from upstart rich house buyer to such co-dependence on somebody who had already wronged him. The fiancee giving up so easily didn't sit well with me either. Ah, all in all this just didn't do it for me.
I will say this movie was beautifully shot though, it had some wonderfully framed scenes and interesting angles which at least keeps it visually watchable.
A young aristocrat Tony (Fox) hired Barrett (Bogarde) as his servant to administer his house, but Barrett has his own plan to manipulate Tony to be completely reliant on him, so assisted by his complicit Vera (Miles), and hampered by Tony's supercilious fiancée Susan (Craig),
it is a binge of seduction, betrayal, debauchery, drug abuse and mind games.
Douglas Slocombe, the prestigious British cinematographer, brings the film to life with his ingenious camerawork, the setting is largely confined interior to Tony's residence (dominantly in the shots is a bookshelf-shape door to the living room, camouflage beyond the veneer is a running theme here), Slocombe is ravishing the eroticism and tautness by his superlative deployments with mirrors (it is in the poster!), shadows, shades (Tony's silhouette hiding behind the shower curtain during a hide-and-seek) and sublime focus-alteration, refracted by the B&W prism, the potency is mind-blowing and soul-cleansing, up to the very end, the transcendent oddity of the situation could only pique one's curiosity for more, for the imbroglio is so fascinating, so nihilistic, anticipates A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971, 8/10)'s benumbing ridicule.
John Dankworth's alternately light-mood, lyric, jazz-infused and riveting score is a handsome companion to Pinter's satirical and pun-slinging screenplay (under the weather? poncho and gaucho?), when Tony addresses to Susan that "he (Barrett) looks like a fish", it hits the bull's eye. Bogarde continues his bold glass-ceiling-breaking endeavor after VICTIM (1961, 8/10), bags another self-revealing role and unleashes his nefarious audacious in the duality of Barrett's servant-and-master changeover; while his on-screen prey James Fox, who, indeed, is equally brilliant in his breakthrough picture, out of four main characters, none of them are good-natured, but he is the only one can collect viewers' sympathy, and one may not root for him, but witness his downfall nevertheless needs more than the fondness of his willowy figure and innocent eyes. Miles and Craig, the two female companions, can not receive the same laud, Miles has a strident voice and being excruciatingly annoying whenever she talks and her performance is in excess of theatricality, which luckily would tune down in her later effort in RYAN'S DAUGHTER (1970, 7/10) and THE HIRELING (1973, 6/10); Craig, whose snobbish and frigid poise is off-putting, albeit she has the most recondite sensibilities to present in the frenzied coda, the efficacy is beyond her ken.
THE SERVANT may be Losey's finest work and should be appreciated more, it is a divine psychological drama with a latent homosexual struggle which perpetually beleaguers human nature and finally we reach the opportune time when we can look directly into each other's eyes without feeling ashamed or offensive anymore.
Las actuaciones en "The Servant" son extraordinarias (en especial de Dirk Bogarde y James Fox) pero la cinta es un virtuoso despliegue de dirección lleno de estupendas composiciones. Esta es una gran película.