The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

by Nandia Foteini Vlachou

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I am so fond of Terence Davies’ adaptation for the big screen of one of my favorite novels, The House of  Mirth (2000), that I was very curious to see The Deep Blue Sea. People tried to warn me, saying it was bad, but I was not going to be convinced unless I saw with my own eyes.

The movie opens with a beautiful, languorous crane shot, but from the very first moment you can tell something is off. Davies’ love of classical music, that served him so wonderfully at the closing scene of the House of Mirth, overwhelms the scene and Samuel Barber’s otherwise magnificent Violin Concerto Op. 14 becomes really grating. His attempts at a non-linear narrative don’t work either, and that leaves the film with an odd assortment of flashbacks and memories that seem disjointed from the present.

The story evolves around Hester Collyer. Married to an elder man whom she clearly does not love, she falls at some point for Freddie Page, a former RAF pilot who struggles with his place in the world after the end of the war. I haven’t read Terence Rattigan’s play (1952) and I am curious to know if the obvious educational and cultural differences of the two lovers are further explored there. A telling scene is their fight in front of a cubist painting in a museum. She says it’s like Braque and he cracks a joke: “Bric-a-brac”. She doesn’t respond and he spitefully retorts: “We can’t all be cultured”. After she doubts his mind (not his bravery), he storms off to go to the Impressionists.

The main problem though is that it’s impossible to sympathise with a woman who throws herself to an emotionally unavailable man, who attempts suicide because he forgot her birthday (a general indicator of his neglect towards her), or who seems so caught in the throes of physical passion (even if it’s something that she has never experienced before). Freddie’s accusation rings awfully true: “She marries the first man who asks her and falls in love for the first man who gives her the eye”. It doesn’t help that Rachel Weisz is overly dramatic throughout and her passionate affair with Freddie (a very good Tom Hiddleston) is thoroughly unconvincing (unlike Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes in the sublime The End of the Affair). It honestly made me wonder whether a woman could loose all sense of self because of lust. I concluded that she never had any to begin with.

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