Does Ardor Drown in
“The Deep Blue Sea”?
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
No, dummy, this is not that shark film with Samuel L. Jackson and LL Cool J. “The Deep Blue Sea” is a thoughtful, intelligent film by Terence Davies that’s based on a 1952 drama by British playwright Terence Rattigan.
However, the film belongs more to Davies than Rattigan.
Throwing out the play’s structure and much of its dialogue, the director reveals the inner turmoil of the adulterous Lady Hester Collyer in his own style.
It’s no coincidence that our character is named Hester, a nod to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s same-named scarlet lady.
Frustrated by a passionless marriage, Lady Collyer embarks on an erotic affair with an ex-Royal Air Force pilot. It’s an intense relationship that tarnishes her reputation, destroys her marriage, and leads her to despair.
The film opens with a debris-littered London street (devastation left over from the Blitz), a scene that might as well be the landscape of her life. Closing the curtains, plugging the doorjamb with a towel, and feeding coins into a gas meter, she means to end it all.
What has brought her to this point? In a word, passion.
“Beware of passion, Hester,” says an elderly dinner companion. “It always leads to something ugly.”
“What would you replace it with?” asks Hester Collyer.
“A guarded enthusiasm,” replies the dowager. “It’s safer.”
Alas, as we discover, Lady Collyer does not choose to play it safe, giving herself over to this scandalous love affair body and soul. The leisurely storyline allows the circling camera plenty of time to focus on naked, intertwined lovers as the violin music swells.
Academy Award-winner Rachel Weisz (“The Constant Gardner”) bravely takes on the alabaster-skinned persona of Lady Collyer, in what has been called “one of the greatest roles for an actress in modern theatre.”
Tom Hiddleston (F. Scott Fitzgerald in “Midnight in Paris”) is cast as Freddie, her “crazily handsome” lover. And Simon Russell Beale (“My Week with Marilyn”) plays Lord William, the husband she leaves behind.
“The Deep Blue Sea” can be seen this week at the Tropic Cinema.
Terence Rattigan is known for such works as “Separate Tables” and “The Browning Version.” Being gay but unable to write about it, the playwright often dealt with “the impact of secrecy and smothered passion on the psyche.”
Terence Davies has given us a fearless film that underscores Rattigan’s dark despair. Rather than exploring the murky depths of love, this film is more about the shipwrecks that can occur on its dangerous shoals.