The Deep Blue Sea | South China Morning Post
  • Tue
  • Mar 3, 2015
  • Updated: 1:38pm

The Deep Blue Sea

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 May, 2012, 12:00am

The Deep Blue Sea
Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale
Director: Terence Davies

On paper, Terence Davies' new film seems very different from the 60-year-old Terence Rattigan play on which it is based. The filmmaker has added new scenes (the opening sequence, which paints a vivid picture of a suicide attempt Rattigan left vague), deleted a character (a gay doctor who's one of the main characters) and refashioned a linear storytelling into a dream-like journey between past and present.

Unfortunately, these changes do not lead to a revolutionary film; in fact, Davies' take is as old-school and theatrical as Rattigan's, for better and for worse.

The upside of Davies' approach lies in the visual splendour in which the characters play out their wildly different takes on love. Set in an austere, post-war Britain (1950), there are lushly sumptuous period details - from upper-class mansions to working-class pubs - to contrast with the repressed sensuality of those times. As Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz) leaves her secure marriage with judge Sir William (Simon Russell Beale) to shack up with temperamental ex-RAF pilot Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston), we see her swapping a numbing aristocratic life for an equally stifling existence in the decaying one-room flat she shares with her new lover.

Unable to get Freddie to reciprocate her passion for him, Hester's desolation is unbearable. Weisz ably conveys that sense of helplessness.

Then again, there are hardly any villains, and Davies - the master storyteller of forbidden love and its catastrophic fallout - makes clear there are other circumstances at play when the three protagonists hurt each other. Each is either scarred by the past (Freddie is unable to find a goal for himself after his wartime heroics) or constrained by the norms of the present (William's awe of his patronising mother causes him to remain aloof from his wife).

Davies has transformed Rattigan's dialogue to suit his perennial leitmotif of how people fail and fall as they elect to stay true to their real feelings - such as when William asks Hester why she 'would give away so much for so little'. But what works in parts actually becomes the film's major flaw. Taking one cue from Rattigan's material too far, The Deep Blue Sea is too stagey, the artifice sometimes bogging the film down and making already subdued emotions appear even more restrained.

Extras: interview with Davies, making-of segment, trailer.

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