The closing film at this year’s 55th London Film Festival, The Deep Blue Sea, has more of a touch of the stage than the big screen to it, although it has an implied admiration for the exquisiteness of yesteryear’s silver screen in its stunning cinematography and scene construction. It is also another ode to nostalgic post-War England that writer-director Terence Davies excels in, so is naturally highly romantic and self indulgent in form.
Based on Terence Rattigan‘s play, Rachel Weisz is Hester Collyer, the wife of a renowned British judge William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale) who is a lot older than she is, but who keeps her in a comfortable lifestyle in post-war Britain that only few could hope for. She falls for the charms of former Air Force pilot Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston), who can give her very little in material value, but excitement and the love she craves. Leaving her fortunate existence behind, Hester’s love becomes obsessive and alienates the two men in her life and destroys her well-being. Can she ever be happy?
Every frame of this film feels meticulously crafted, as we are led to fall in love with the idea of all-consuming passion, while being serenaded by the arousing score. This is the ultimate filmmaker’s textbook film, rather than being a great cinematic narrative, in both a technical and performance-related sense. Weisz becomes more mesmerising and incandescent as the minutes unfold and her resolve crumbles with the helplessness that is love, and Hiddleston is the dashing and proud 1940s movie hero. Davies’s lighting creates the mood of the moment but is also absorbed by Weisz’s presence as she struggles with the impending gloom that gradually surrounds her.
These intense, theatrical, one-on-one portrayals of raw feeling that feel egotistic and claustrophobic in parts are knitted together with other scenes full of post-war, selfless camaraderie and hope to put everything into context. Davies heavily relies on the power of music and song in this to touch the soul, and it’s a curious experience that both relinquishes tension and escalates it in equal schizophrenic nature.
In summary, fans of filmmaker Davies, the actors Weisz and Hiddleston, theatre and 1940s romance classics will revel in the love-triangle story, The Deep Blue Sea, whereas everyone else may feel a little short-changed at the box office by the experience, if narrative development is to your taste. This is a beautiful-looking film that concerns itself with looking at its most divine while indulging its characters’ eccentricities and torments to evoke any drama it has to offer. For these reasons, it’s the perfect film festival closer, and a nostalgic burst from the past unlike anything else currently showing.