Sweeping romance and post-war social commentary abound in this hugely powerful period drama.
Sweeping romance and post-war social commentary
abound in this hugely powerful period drama.
‘Between The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea’ has one finite connotation; that in
certain situations we are stuck between two highly undesirable options. The proverbial rock and a hard place as
it were. It is a title that
presents many interesting themes for the latest film from Terrence Davies, a filmmaker who always finds ways of presenting
Britain in the most honest and poetic ways possible. The Deep Blue Sea is no exception for it sees an emotional
rollercoaster, written and shot in such a way as to act as a deeply personal
and evocative love-letter to the idea of romance, if not the pitfalls of
hanging onto it so dearly.
In 1950s London,
with the ruins of World War II’s Blitz still in plain sight, Hester (Weisz) looks back on her relationship
with first her husband Will (Beale)
and then her young, lover, former RAF pilot Freddie (Hiddleston). The two men in Hester’s life could not be more
different. Will is a successful
solicitor and Judge, a man of high class, Freddie is a jovial young man who
lives in his past glories of the Battle Of Britain. The problem is that while Hester could never fully love Will,
Freddie could never reciprocate Hester’s love in the way she yearns for.
The course of
true love never did run smooth and The Deep Blue Sea is certainly a choppy
affair. It is easy to view the
film as nothing but a melodramatic romance between two people, Hester and
Freddie, who spend their time arguing when there are clearly more important
things to be concerned with but Davies brings a sense of awe to the
proceedings. Here are three people
who survived World War II, the Blitz on London and in Freddie’s case the Battle
Of Britain yet, with the war over and the damage still crumbling around London,
these three occupy themselves with flights of fancy.
Hester is more in
love with the concept of romance than the actual reality of it. She is someone who is enamored by
Freddie’s gallant history but frustrated by his lack of moving on. Will on the other hand is more stoic, a
man who clearly loves Hester but refuses to stand up for her against his
dominating mother yet gives her a copy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets despite her
leaving him for a younger man.
contradictions and oxymorons of the film are both rife and intentional. How can Hester have found herself being
fought over by two such different men?
The answer lies in Davies’ tone and obvious nod to 1940s cinema. The opening five minutes of the film,
almost entirely dialogue free, are scored with a frankly intrusive rendition of
Barber’s Violin Concerto that puts the mellow firmly into melodrama. Indeed for some it will be too much, an
almost sweepingly hostile assault on the senses, but it sets a tone which
Davies is then content to settle into without the aid of over the top musical
intrusions. Given the style and
period setting it is not unfair to assume Davies is looking to the likes of Casablanca and Brief Encounter as inspiration for this romantic story. Indeed, his style harks back to the
soft-focus, smoke-filled rooms of Hollywood’s Golden Era. Such is the power of The Deep Blue
Sea’s visuals that even a drifting cloud of exhaled smoke from Weisz’s pouted
lips brings an evocative and sensual feeling the likes of which is rarely, if
ever, seen on the screen these days.
The three leads
are all on captivating form. Simon
Russell Beale brings a laconic stuffiness to the cuckolded Will but never loses
sight of his warm, cuddly side.
Indeed it is Will, thanks to Beale’s performance, who comes across as
the most sympathetic character.
Unlike Hester or Freddie, he is always perfectly honest about who he is
and what he wants. Hiddleston continues
to rise as a must-watch actor and here demonstrates a jovial dark side. As Freddie, he lives in the past,
clinging onto his glory days in the RAF and yearning to be back there. But it is in his moments of anger and
frustration, rather than his dapper happiness, that Hiddleston enthralls, his
anger always gauged just right to highlight Freddie’s frustrations at himself
rather than those he vents at.
Having already won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her turn in The
Constant Gardener, it would be a huge surprise if Rachel Weisz’s performance
doesn’t see her tipped for a few gongs this awards season. As Hester she remains calm but
fractured, a damaged soul unable to adjust to the changes around her and stuck
in a fantasy that never existed.
Indeed, rarely has her cut English delivery seemed quite so at home on
It will not have
mass appeal but The Deep Blue Sea is a film with plenty to say and does so with
a delicate visual flourish that has fallen by the wayside. Davies continues to be a wonderfully
unique filmmaker and is supported by three very different, yet equally
engaging, performances. Jump in,
let it wash over you and drink from The Deep Blue Sea.