Brittany Runs a Marathon
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After he has come back from travelling, a wealthy young man named Tony (James Fox) decides to employ a house servant. Hugo Barrett (Dirk Bogarde) successfully applies for the position. The relationship works well but this soon changes when Tony's girlfriend Susan starts to spend time at Tony's abode. She seems not to treat Barrett as human and takes the role of 'master' to his 'servant' to almost cruel lengths. Things get even more surreal with the introduction of Barrett's 'sister' who comes to work under Tony in the same subservient role.Â
I'm surprised I've only just seen this film for the first time. It was worth the wait. This is brilliant on every level. There are universally fantastic performances especially from Fox and Bogarde who throw themselves into the descent into madness which Harold Pinter's adaptation of Robin Maugham's book portrays.Â
In fact, Pinter has a cameo role in the scene in the restaurant which epitomises the convention-breaking nature of the material at hand. We are shown an excerpt from the conversation from each table in the venue. We're privileged enough to become privy to multiple different narratives and stories from many different characters, not just Tony and his girlfriend. One of these pairings is Pinter as a socialite and his date.Â
Check out director Joseph Losey's use of mirrors to portray the action but also to distort it's view to the audience just as the film's events are being shaped and distorted.Â
The film also reverses, subverts and delightfully fiddles around with the power dynamic of the 'master' and 'servant'- who is serving who? Do the truly subservient characters even realise?
In fact, things get so surreal that I would have sworn that Pinter had written this story himself rather than just adapting it.Â This would make a great triple-bill with William Friedkin's The Birthday Party (also written by Pinter) and Polanski's Repulsion.Â
On The Servant's release it won a raft of awards and rightfully so. It also resides on The BFI's Top 100 British Film's list.Â
British movie about the degradation of a high society member, who takes his time to get rest and his moral decadence ensues from that decision.
Professional servant Barrett (played by Dirk Bogarde) is hired by a wealthy young man, Tony (Edward Fox), as his man-servant. Initially Barrett is the ideal man-servant - quiet, loyal, submissive, unquestioning and very helpful. However, over time the shine wears off and he reveals more of his true self, and it's far from submissive. Moreover, with time the master-servant dynamic starts to shift.
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.
Boy, I don't think I liked this at all- which was so disappointing to me since I love Pinter, Losey and all of the actors involved. Though I think it's failures are really due mostly to the direction, I thought the momentum of this movie dropped terribly with the introduction of the 'sister,' and once that initial storyline dissolved you felt like leaving the film, but wait, there's an hour more! I was also shocked at how little Pinter's voice came through with this, it actually could have really benefitted from incorporating more of his style.
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.
beautiful from the first to the last shot
One of the best British deama films of the 60s. Dirk Bogarde is excellent as the assertive servant who becomes involved with upper class gent James Fox which eventually leads to roles being reversed with Fox becoming the servant. Written by Harold Pinter and directed by Joseph Losey if you are a fan of British films and actors you will enjoy this. Bogarde was formerly a matinée idol with the Rank Organisation but branched out into ArtHouse films in the mid 60s. Co starring Sarah Miles and Wendy Craig.
Masterful piece in subversion of class relations, power, and sexuality.
Brilliant psychological drama with a first class script by Harold Pinter and a top notch cast. Dirk Bogarde is superb as Hugo Barrett and Sarah Miles, Wendy Craig and James Fox are also very impressive.
An intriguing eventful film.
Losey and Pinter's first collaboration (they would continue their rapport in ACCIDENT 1967 and THE GO-BETWEEN 1970), THE SERVANT imposes an alluring tale of a subversive master-and-servant relationship, with heavy homo erotic undertones (the author of the source novel Robin Maugham is "defiantly homosexual") way ahead of its era, so it is time to revive this hidden gem to make it circulate to a more open-minded demography for its sheer marvelousness.
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.