The atmosphere and language are captivating.
Here is a movie that transcends its considerable downside with the words of a good writer. The End of the Affair, written and directed by Neil Jordan, is based on novelist Graham Greene's novel of the same name, an autobiographical look at his affair with an American woman. The sex in this movie is as relentless as the fireballs in Lethal Weapon. At least the one is quieter than the other, but the sight of it becomes dull in its ubiquity. Even in our era of anything goes, film sex still observes rigid rules with regard to the movement of naked bodies, so we endure a great deal of still nakedness and an enormous amount of big-time heaving covered mostly by blankets and raincoats.
It rains nearly all the time in this movie. It rains down the windowpanes of rooms where the sex is taking place and in the streets where the lovers hustle from house to house to hotel room. We are watching Graham Greene's British love triangle struggling with hurt and despair in what is essentially a bleak movie. Why then did I like it so much? As movies can, this one brought me into an era I love to read about.
In World War II London, novelist Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes) types the first sentence of his new book: "This is a diary of hate." He introduces us to the stultifying marriage of Sarah (Julianne Moore) and Henry Miles (Stephen Rea), a couple he had met several years earlier. Propelled by lust, Maurice and Sarah head straight for bed while poor old Henry, a British bureaucrat, "the bore of a husband who knows where his slippers are but never notices his wife," walks gently through his orderly life. Henry knows himself: "I bored her with my jealousy."
If Sarah is bored at home, she doesn't have an easy time of it with passion either. When she says of her lover, "He pounces on my words and twists them," we can only nod in assent. Maurice sees life through a dark lens, turning every situation to its worst equation. "Pain is easy to write, but what can one write about happiness?" Not much. Maurice's credo condemns him to melancholy. The actual end of the affair is rife with the religious questioning typical of Graham Greene and his time.
If the subtleties of faith and the overload of sex stretch our tolerance, the mood of the film is a triumph. The atmosphere and language are captivating. Director Neil Jordan gets the details right-from Sarah's Ann Sheridan snood to the propriety that can go hand in hand with betrayal.
The soundtrack recreates the era when both the Americans and the British poured their heightened emotions and big-name stars into distracting on-screen love triangles wrestling with moral dilemmas. It takes some getting used to Stephen Rea without an Irish rifle, to Julianne Moore's determined blandness, to Ralph Fiennes's pigheaded myopia. But this is wartime London, and that's more than enough.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 498
Studio : Columbia Pictures
Rating : R
Running time : Unk.
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