Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Deep Blue Sea

THE DEEP BLUE SEA (Terence Davies, 2011)

THE DEEP BLUE SEA opens with Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz) reading the suicide note she’s left for her lover, Royal Air Force pilot Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston).  While her passion for him is as intense as ever, she can no longer stand the imbalance in their feelings for one another.  Hester’s attempt is unsuccessful and does her no harm, but considering the place and time--London, around 1950--the act itself could get her in a great deal of trouble as attempted suicide is a crime.  Although Hester’s husband Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale) was deeply hurt when she left him for his younger friend and refuses to grant her a divorce, he shows no indication of wishing to use her bid to end her life or his position as a judge to gain revenge.  

After being revived Hester lingers in a daze in her rented flat reflecting on the events that brought her to the point of preferring death to the pain of her unmatched fervency for Freddie.  She makes a desperate pitch to elicit the desired response she wants from him but is resigned to knowing she will always need him more.

As Hester tries to hold onto the ephemeral remains of what once existed in her relationships, THE DEEP BLUE SEA is lit so as to catch the dust in the air, the smoke from her cigarettes, and the breath on a chilly night.  While visible, those fleeting byproducts can never again return to what they were.  Florian Hoffmeister’s painterly cinematography wraps the film in a shroud.  What’s gone is gone, and Hester inhabits the wreckage of her choices just as Londoners get on with life among the destruction and ruins from World War II.  

Love becomes malignant when it is dampened or when it mutates into lust in writer-director Terence Davies’ adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s play.  Per William’s mother (Barbara Jefford) extolling the virtues of guarded enthusiasm over passion, his affection for Hester is kept at a polite remove.  Hester requires ardor in her relationships, even if it is not reciprocated, and is willing to chuck comfortable but cool certainty with William for the heat of carnal attraction to Freddie.  
Hester is trapped between a rock and a hard place.  Neither William nor Freddie can supply or share the acute emotion that sustains her.  Weisz’s sensitive and finely modulated embodiment of yearning and torment speaks of the internal decay that has taken root in Hester.  The character is a victim of her own decisions, but Weisz’s bruised performance in THE DEEP BLUE SEA yields empathy for being battered by doomed romanticism.

Grade: B+

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