I was unfamiliar with the story I was walking into upon seeing "The Deep Blue Sea" and was not well acquainted with any of writer/director Terrence Davies previous work. I had of course heard others discuss his films and was anxious to see if what I had heard would turn out to be true. What is actually delivered in his latest film is by all means a very simple tale. It is nothing more than a tragic love story set in the ruins of World War II. As awful as it may sound I am always entertained, or more accurately engaged by tragic love stories. The dynamic of a failed relationship is always interesting. That is why there are so many songs about them, that is why the story never grows old. I found the adaptation of the 1952 Terence Rattigan play to be emotionally enduring and a very introspective look at how the human heart deals with past memories and lost feelings it will never likely be reunited with again. Still, for such a melodramatic premise, it also ends up being rather boring. Davies does in fact prove to be a very straight forward director who documents this story with a stylistically square eye. Everything we see feels flawless, painted almost and yet at the center of our story is an extremely fractured individual that slowly becomes more self-destructive due to the heartbreaking circumstances she is forced to confront yet are of her own creation. This is a distinctly British film, but after seeing "Pirates! Band of Misfits" earlier this week I found it even more interesting to see how big the crevice really is between the work in American cinema and how it compares. Clearly this is a much heavier film than the animated export that is opening wide this weekend, but it may not be the better film because of it.

Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale) is shocked
by his wife's actions.
I realize this has little to do with an animated movie about Pirates, but it is inevitable for me as a movie-goer to not relate the two as they come from filmmakers with similar cultures. There is really no way to compare the two, but why I even mention the observation is due to the fact that the kind of people we watch here carry that same noble persona, that uniquely formal reserve for one another. The is demonstrated in the story by Freddie Page, a pilot in the Royal Air Force who is having trouble adjusting to life after the war. As played by Tom Hiddleston (Thor) Freddie is a fickle, thrill-seeking playboy who gives into Hester's longing for more than skin deep love if only to succeed in gaining lust and sin from the married woman. Hester, a romanticizing and smouldering Rachel Weisz, is looking for more than this though. She longs for true passion and true love. As the younger wife to high court judge Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale) she sits pretty in his wealthy arms, she is comfortable, but needs more in her life to fill those ideals of romantic escapades, to help her realize those passions. This leads her to the affair with Freddie who after learning of an attempted suicide by Hester seems to see it as a way out and quickly exits before getting caught up in actually having to return the love Hester feels for him and provide stability in her life. The film plays out in this single day where Hester has attempted to kill herself and plays out through short flashbacks to flesh out the complete story of the affair and how she has arrived in her current state. 

Freddie (Tom Hiddleston) and Hester (Rachel Weisz) can't
help falling in love.
Davies handles these flashbacks with ease as he navigates them with the help of a strong classical score. Much of the film in fact plays out as if it could be a silent picture. Of course, this would take away some of the scenes in which we see Weisz, as a performer, exceed. The images are just so elegant though that the sweeping orchestral sounds take the imagery to a completely different level where the slow pace becomes more of a point than a flaw. No doubt it is intentional, but that we don't really dig into the meat of the story until the half hour point makes for a rather uninspired introduction. The main conflict I have with the movie though was that we, as an audience, are confused as to whether we should like or be afraid of Weisz's Hester. True, she is a damaged soul, but as she is clearly a danger to herself Davies should have taken more time to flesh her out as a human being. There is a development in the character that is missing. We never really learn how she came to marry the older man in the first place, why she might be drawn to such lustful desires, or if she has ever been happy. Does she even know what it truly feels like to fall in love? At one point Freddie speaks a line of dialogue that goes went something to the effect of marrying the first man that asked and falling in love with the first to smile at her. We see the pain and confusion there, but we want to be given a deeper look into its roots. This is a familiar story and because Davies has stripped it down to its core characters it feels more like a filmed version of the stage play in parts than it does a feature film. This was my biggest detraction for myself to emotionally connect with the film, which is a shame because there is serious complexities going on under Weisz's soft-focused eyes.

Hester is at the center of The Deep Blue Sea and is cause
for much stress in the life of two men.
"The Deep Blue Sea" is clearly not a film for everyone. It is in many ways a throw back to movies of old. There is a lost soul feeling to the film that overcasts the gloomy British setting and tragic story. I almost came to understand what life must have felt like post-WWII. There is a sense of hopelessness hanging over everything. This could be the reason a restricted romantic like Hester becomes so restless in her unaffectionate marriage, but it also serves the film in its quest to make you really feel the heartache. "The Deep Blue Sea" is a very careful film, one that seems planned to a T with its steady cam shots set to classical music and the very quick witted dialogue exchanged in rapid fire while the words contain the intelligence of thoughts that would usually have to be boiled over. It is that kind of film and if that isn't your cup of tea, then you will honestly probably hate the film. I din't love it, but I think I understood it. I certainly understood Weisz's performance and while I yearned to know more about Hester I was also thankful such a talented actress had taken the role. A lesser one would not have been able to convey nearly as much history in the unspoken moments as Weisz does here. We know what she wants, what she longs for when the camera studies her face as she looks at Freddie. Even when her character becomes somewhat of a wallower, feeling sorry for herself because of her current lifestyle we sympathize with her. That is the strongest aspect the film has going for it and while plenty of other things compliment the performance, that alone is what will resonate with you hours after the credits roll.



No comments:

Post a Comment