FILM (1970)

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 January, 2009, 12:00am

The Go-Between

Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Dominic Guard, Michael Redgrave

Director: Joseph Losey

When Harold Pinter died last Christmas Eve the world lost one of the great theatrical dramatists, but it should never be forgotten that when he got it right as a screenwriter, he hit it on the nose.

Although both The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) and Betrayal (1983) earned Oscar nods, The Go-Between was the piece that best captured the genius of Pinter.

On stage, his play rattled along with barely a pause for breath. On screen he managed to hold his tongue - and never was the unsaid word more telling.

Put it down to all that free-love flowing out of the US in the late 1960s, but Pinter seemed to react to the times by becoming more concerned about how things were for real people with real passions.

The Go-Between is about desire, and the simmering, burning tension between two people who start to want what they can't have - or should not have, at least.

Pinter took the novel by L.P. Hartley and imbued it with a sense of sadness. Julie Christie is a woman trapped by the constraints of her upper-class lifestyle, who fancies a bit of rough. And it arrives in the shape of Alan Bates (right with Christie), the farmer who seems able to scratch that itch.

And while Pinter had trodden similar ground before - his other collaborations with director Joseph Losey (The Servant and Accident) were basically variants on a theme - what makes The Go-Between grab you by the scruff of the neck is the way he slowly peels back the layers. Pinter delights in reminding us that there is more than one version to every story, depending chiefly on the teller.

In this case it's a young boy the wayward couple use to set up their assignations. He's played by Dominic Guard as a lad and the story is retold by his older self (Michael Redgrave). And we slowly - very slowly - find out the truth as to what is going on. Christie is the star, all pent-up frustration and flirting eyes, and Losey shoots her from all the right angles.

Pinter's work won him a British Academy Award, and a legion of new fans. The film shared honours at Cannes and to this day still pulses with the promise of forbidden fruit.