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|April 3, 2000||
An affair to remember
Fiction and movies are full of husbands and wives going astray during times of war. Remember the passionate, adulterous beach clinches between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in From Here To Eternity? That was in Hawaii, when the US was at war.
Which brings us to The End Of The Affair, which has war, adultery and a dash of religion as its theme. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by English author Graham Greene, The Affair is a better remake of a 1950 version which did not create much of an impact.
It is London during wartime. Sirens sound, bombs fall. Maurice, a writer who is obsessed with hate, falls in love with Sarah Miles, wife of Henry, who never seems happy. The passionate, wartime affair has its ups and downs. It is disrupted during a bombing raid and the couple part, only to come together again. Sarah takes to religion, but Maurice cannot stand the estrangement. He hires a detective to tail his lady love and suspects her of having an affair with a priest.
Even as the husband sulks and prefers to get soaked in the rain, the lovers cast aside their misunderstandings and plan to wed. But the plot becomes complex; unexpected developments take place leading to a highly moving climax. Both the lover and the husband learn something from the complex relationships.
Watching The End Of The Affair took me back to the 1950s, when movies were simple, had a story to tell and often told it well. This film was like that. The screenplay was powerful, the dialogue sparkling, bearing the Graham Greene touch. Director Neil Jordan succeeds in creating a wartime London and the photography is excellent. As in all Greene novels, this one has a strong religious streak which has been captured on the screen without any distortion.
The End Of The Affair shuttles between the present and the past. The story is told mainly through flashbacks. Jordan handles the flashback scenes expertly, they never seem out of place or jarring.
Greene's expertise was characterisation. Maurice (Ralph Fiennes), Sarah (Julianne Moore) and Henry (Stephen Rea) are ideally cast. Moore is wonderful as the gentle-hearted woman unable to give up her lover and willing to accept her husband as a 'friend.' Rea has the most difficult role because the novelist has not made it clear why he was incompatible as a husband. "Husbands are ridiculous," he mutters in desperation. We can only agree.
The love scenes in the film are handled sensitively. Oh, I must not forget the excellent cameo performance by Ian Hart, who played the private detective. The End Of The Affair leaves you with the satisfaction of having watched competent professionals in action. In a film that deals with human failings with rare understanding and compassion.
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