Based on the novel by Robin Maugham, Harold Pinter’s superb study of brooding hatred and hypocrisy within the ever-shifting borders of the class struggle include some viciously good performances and an unsettling plot.
Set in London, The Servant is ultimately a class struggle played out as a power shift between a sinister manservant and his rich young employer, as they jockey for control over a Georgian townhouse. Tony, a wealthy young land developer has just acquired a new two-story townhouse and a servant named Barrett. Barrett seems the right combination of faithful butler and prissy maid, despite the fact that Tony is perfectly satisfied with him, Tony’s well-to-do fiancé, Susan is suspicious of Barrett despite his apparently impeccable behaviour.
Barrett becomes concerned that Susan may undermine his hold over Tony, and so asks Tony if his sister Vera, can come to stay and work as maid, and Tony agrees. Barrett’s plan is to push Susan out of the way by encouraging Vera to seduce the naive Tony. When Vera arrives, Tony becomes immediately distracted by her earthy manner, and when Barrett leaves to visit his parents, Vera makes her move to seduce Tony. Returning home late one night, Tony and Susan catch Barrett and Vera making love the master bedroom, and the truth comes out: Vera is Barrett’s fiancée. Barrett, in front of Susan, declares that Tony and Vera have been at it too. Tony kicks them both out of his house.
Later Barrett asks Tony to forgive him and take him back. Vera, he tells him, has taken the manservant for his money and left him, and he needs his job back. Tony accepts, but this time, the balance of power between master and servant start to change perceptibly. —Britmovie.co.uk
Joseph Walton Losey (January 14, 1909, La Crosse, Wisconsin – June 22, 1984, London) was an American theater and film director. After studying in Germany with Bertolt Brecht, Losey returned to the United States, eventually making his way to Hollywood.
While in Hollywood, Losey co-directed the original U.S. production of Galileo, by Brecht, with Brecht himself as the other co-director. Charles Laughton, who had worked with Brecht on the translation / adaptation, performed the lead role. In the context of that production, Losey also made a half hour film based on Galileo’s life.
During the McCarthy Era, Losey was investigated for his supposed ties with the Communist Party and was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses. His career in shambles, he moved to London, where he continued working as a director.
Even in the UK, he experienced problems: his first British film, The Sleeping Tiger, a 1954 film noir crime thriller, bore the pseudonym Victor Hanbury… read more
A proto-Polanskian gobsmacker. It would've been easy to coast on the excellence of the script, which is prime Pinter, but Losey brings to it a masterful sense of space, roaming the interior of the house with long, mobile takes and mapping the characters' shifting power relations visually. Bogarde and Fox are tip-top, too.
As the NYFF celebrates its 50th year, a look at the posters from the films that made up its first incarnation in 1963.
A week or so ago at the London Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, I went to see Dirk Bogarde in The Servant. Recently re-released to celebrate its 50th anniversary… read review
I put this on late last night after renting it from Lovefilm. I wasn’t too fussed about seeing it – I’ve got a few good titles coming up on my rental list, so I thought I’d get it out of the way and… read review