THE DEEP BLUE SEA (R) Adapted from Terence Rattigan’s play by writer/director Terrence Davies, The Deep Blue Sea is so sensual, so darkly hermetic, that initially its surface lushness acts as a barrier for us to sink into the narrative. The opening dramatic scene, in which we are introduced to the middle-aged Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz) as she attempts to commit suicide in a squalid London flat, could be viewed as an obstacle to go any further as we fade in and out of her life while Samuel Barber’s “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra” pitches us into the deep. Sensuality this overripe can be difficult to engage with. It’s too overt, emotionally intoxicating and frightening. Surrendering to a greater passion is always risky. You might get hurt.
But to disconnect from it would be a shame. Davies’s film is meticulously crafted and mesmerizing, and at its center is an exquisite performance from Weisz, perhaps her best yet. She’s the damaged heart beating throughout it, a woman who leaves her wealthy yet emotionally frigid husband, Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale), for the boyish, charming yet troubled ex-fighter pilot Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston), and can’t find happiness with either one. The film is set in post-WWII Britain and Davies evokes the time period with his characteristic warmthâ€”for instance the pub scenes of working class people communing in drunken singing, which heartbreakingly seems alien to upper-class Hester although she desires to join inâ€”and pointed insight. Class differences prod much of the uneasiness flowing between Hester and her relationships with William and Freddie. Her husband’s passionless world of English gardens, affluence and clockwork orderliness is blatantly tyrannical. Freddie, on the other hand, offers something more ardently fulfilling, but his joking dismissals of her cultural interests and his nostalgia to relive the war years painfully reinforce her isolation from him as well.
In lesser hands, it would be convenient labeling this as nothing more than kitchen sink melodrama. But Davies uses the genre in much the same way that Sirk did with his opulent women’s pictures of the 1950s or decades later AlmodÃ³var and Todd Haynes have in their later, more mature work. Davies is no ironist or subversive, however. Melodrama is not a distancing device forcing us to question the contradictions it raises. It’s a passage to deeper operatic resonance and a way to unlock our own need to fully identify with a craving so overwhelming.
â€¢ The Deep Blue Sea opens at CinÃ© on May 4, but the theater will be showing one of Davies’ earlier films, the autobiographical The Long Day Closes, on May 3 at 7:15 pm as part of their ongoing fifth anniversary “For the Love of Cinema” series. The 35mm screening of The Long Day Closes is a rare and special treat on our shores, especially considering that the film has never been released on DVD or Blu-ray in this country. It’s also one of the most poignant and haunting coming-of-age films ever, and one that beautifully conveys the allure of cinema like few others. Don’t miss it.
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