Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Deep Blue Sea (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Deep Blue Sea

The film adaptation of Terrence Rattigan's play The Deep Blue Sea is excellently crafted with a vivid and painterly detail for the emotional manipulation of color and setting. Patient and meticulous as it may be, it  turns sadness and dysfunction into an art form. So much British Sturm and Drang slows things up a bit and becomes a just a pinch too much. 

Rachel Weisz plays Hester who feels trapped in a stable but colorless marriage with an upper class judge (Simon Russell Beale). The judge is seen as an immovable pillar who seems to vary his blank passive smile only for his mother (Barbara Jefford) who is no bundle of joy herself. As we might predict Hester meets the initially suave RAF pilot Freddie (Tom Hiddleston). Hester falls immediately in love (no surprise) but Fast Flyer Freddie somehow enjoys playing the bombing bounder more than being betrothed. 

The acting is faultless and there is sensation within the main characters, but narratively we have too many loose ends. For starters both the judge and our heroic flyer seem a bit insipid. Why in Heaven's name did Hester marry such a joyless boulder straight-away? We have no clue. If she was happy once (and we know that she was) would not we have a few happy scenes? Secondly, what the deuce is the matter with Freddy? He can't commit but we are left in the clouds as to explanations. Thirdly, I wonder what Hester's attraction is, for despite Freddy's dashing looks he is not very sympathetic. Frequently drunk and narcissistic, he forgets his friend Hester's birthday. After a while, the war hero becomes a bland beau. We are left to fill in the blanks and the film just starts to become too soggy, plodding and  top-heavy in suffering.

That being said, the film remains a visual compelling study of three hearts thrown to fend for themselves in the English drizzle. Most of the scenes are shot as if they are oxidized photographs from a 1950s camera. Faces are overexposed in scorched landscapes gone rusty from the atomic blasts of harsh words and inert passions. London is an empty shell. This desolation is coupled with the rhythmic chiaroscuro of the one love scene in the film, in which two bodies become one fleshy thing of lust and want---an organism submerged in a marine kaleidoscope complete with multiple limbs and suckers. 

Along with this singular exclamation of sex, the domestic scenes with Rachel Weisz recall the portraiture of John Singer Sargent given that Hester is such a fair  Chinese-white presence under the impressionistic reddish browns of her sad surroundings. 

"The Deep Blue Sea" becomes more of a conceptual art piece rather than a novel analysis of a dysfunctional relationship. The scale is tipped so much in lugubrious loss, drenched in bleak India ink. Still, the film holds its own with its subtlety and visual impact, even though you might think it belongs more in The Tate collection than onscreen.

Write Ian at redtv_2005@yahoo.com

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