U.K. • 1970 • COLOUR • DIGITAL • 118 MIN.

A twelve-year-old boy (Dominic Guard) becomes a messenger for two illicit lovers (Julie Christie and Alan Bates) of different social status; and the golden summer of 1900 clouds over into a nightmare that will last a lifetime. ‘I felt that the most important thing was what became of the boy,’ said Losey, ‘what kind of man he became, and why and how he was destroyed.’ Harold Pinter’s adaptation of L. P. Hartley’s classic novel is respectful of its source whilst amplifying its themes of jealousy, betrayal, innocence and memory: and in an exceptional cast, Margaret Leighton’s terrifying Mrs Maudsley and Michael Redgrave’s traumatised elder Leo are especially fine in conveying the mystery and tragedy at the tale’s heart. Winner of the Golden Palm at Cannes, the film has sometimes been criticised for the flash-forwards that disrupt the narrative flow, and for Michel Legrand’s portentous score, but both are essential to the film’s ominous mood: like the anxiety behind the exactitude of Losey’s camerawork, they have the foreknowledge of disaster. For me this is Losey’s greatest, most moving film; and as near perfect an example of provocative and intelligent adaptation as one has any right to expect.

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