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KING AND COUNTRY

Director: JOSEPH LOSEY

U.K. • 1964 • BLACK AND WHITE • 35MM • 86 MIN.


Made on a shoestring budget and shot in three weeks, King and Country is an anti-war film in the tradition of All Quiet on the Western Front. Having walked away from the battlefield, Private Hamp (Tom Courtenay) is put on trial for desertion. The outcome is a foregone conclusion, and the emphasis thus falls on the legal mechanism whereby a decent man is condemned, the law itself being convicted of class prejudice and an inability to understand mental illness. The failure of Hamp’s defence counsel Hargreaves (Dirk Bogarde) is that of an educated man unable to articulate convincingly the inchoate feelings of the common soldier: in that court of law, accents speak louder than words. The film’s core, though, is, in Losey’s words, ”the personal relationship between Hamp and that officer. It’s really a class conversation in which the officer is educated by the boy’s simplicity.” Dirk Bogarde and Tom Courtenay bring this relationship to life with almost unbearable poignancy: and, as he points up the horrors and hypocrisies of obeisance to a system of values in which nobody really believes, Losey’s direction is discreet but deadly.

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