The torture of adultery

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The Deep Blue Sea (M). Director: Terence Davies. Starring: Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale, Barbara Jefford. 98 minutes

Is canasta a game or a sport? Is mere enthusiasm something to be derided, when the alternative is passion, with its connotations of rawness and freedom?

The exchange between weary housewife Hester (Weisz) and her wealthy mother-in-law (Jefford) is a finely wrought specimen of passive aggressive repartee. But it's also a summary of Hester's state of mind: although her husband Sir William (Beale), a judge, does not yet know it, Hester's enthusiasm for their marriage has been negated by her passion for another man, RAF pilot Freddie (Hiddleston).

This flashback is stained by the knowledge that we, the audience, have of the trauma that is to come to Hester on the road that she has chosen. When her infidelity is discovered, she is rejected by the deeply hurt William, but readily flees to the arms of the cocky but haunted Freddie. Her desire for him is excruciating in its ferocity, especially once it becomes clear that his feelings for her are less profound.

Having rejected one partner and being now neglected by another, Hester lapses into a viscous depression. Which is where we find her at the film's commencement. Most of the film takes place over the course of a single day; Hester's failed suicide attempt during the opening scene draws the genuinely caring William back into her life, but repels Freddie — the reverse of Hester's hoped-for outcome.

A scattering of dreamy flashbacks (including of that terse exhange between Hester and her mother-in-law) reveal Hester's histories with these two men: one who offers the safety and mundaneness of love and nurture; the other who promises the heat, colour and even danger of passion. In short The Deep Blue Sea is a portrait of a woman trapped in the tumult between two failed relationships.

As a housewife escaping from the oppression of domesticity into the recklessness of adultery, Hester can be seen as an heir to the spirits of Lady Chatterley or Madame Bovary. In a sense, the perennially discontent Hester is more difficult to sympathise with than these predecessors. Yet Weisz's performance is utterly captivating, as it ebbs and billows and sometimes blazes within cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister's long, slow takes.

Captivating, yes, but also devastating: Hester's story may on the surface seem prosaic, but it is executed with breathtaking emotional intensity. Writer-director Davies' adaptation of Terence Rattigan's 1952 play is a film not just to watch but to become immersed in.

Along with those stunning, lingering gazes at characters' faces and emotional reactions, the visual highlights include (during a flashback to wartime) a bravura tracking shot of Londoners joined in tremulous folk song while sheltering in a subway from the bombs bursting in the streets above them.

The prominent use of Samuel Barber's 1939 Violin Concerto throughout the film further epitomises The Deep Blue Sea's lasting impression on the viewer; tortured, tortuous and unrelenting in its emotional grip. 


Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is Assistant Editor of Eureka Street.


Topic tags: Tim Kroenert, The Deep Blue Sea, Rachel Weisz

 

 

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Another totally disgusting movie. No Catholic should ever view movies such as this one. The subject matter is so offensive to God and the true teaching of the Catholic Church. Movies about Mortal Sins are repulsive.
Trent | 19 April 2012


The film sounds pretty intense and brings to mind the Rupert Brooke poem 'The Great Lover'. The final lines of the poem are haunting: But the best I've known, Stays here, and changes, breaks, grows old, is blown About the winds of the world, and fades from brains Of living men, and dies, Nothing remains.
Pam | 19 April 2012


In response to Trent's responsible contribution.Why Eureka Street promotes films like the "The torture of adultery", a repulsive film that no Catholic should ever view? Well, once again I shake my head and ask myself why Eureka Street promotes such films?
Ron Cini | 19 April 2012


Not my kind of movie Tim. In the earliest afternoon of life I want something to either laugh about or challenge me (the Mentalist) not give me apoplexy. Thanks. Actually for the first time in a million years I saw this week (courtsey of the graciousness of my son who chased to find it for me) "Maytime" with Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy. I remember seeing it as a littlest kid. The haunting "sweetheart"song remained with me since then. And guess what, no car chases, no nakedness, no drugs (just cigar I think) but yes one single shot to shoot the lover ...OH dear!
Anne Lastman | 20 April 2012


To Trent and Ron Cini, I suppose under your reasoning it would be repugnant to watch and express an opinions on films such as The Passion of the Christ and The Mission. These films depict mortal sins as well - that of murder, which one would think is just as grave as adultery. Also to Ron Cini, publishing a film review is not in fact a "promotion", so I can't understand why you need to shake your head. We are all adults and we can all have opinions without resorting to censorship and standover tactics.
AURELIUS | 21 April 2012


It doesn't say much about "Freddie" either. Hester? A true depiction of women according to St Jerome, apart from those supporting him financially to continue in his work of course.
L Newington | 21 April 2012


Sounds a bit schmalltzy to me, sort of Brief Encounterish with a little more action, less trains, and a woman who takes things a tad too seriously. Anna Karenina with the RAF pilot as Vronsky. But fewer trains, as said. Don't tell me his plane crashes at the end, hence another meaning to the name? That would be just too sad (in a cynical sense).
Penelope | 24 April 2012


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