Film maker Neil Jordan made one of the most controversial movies of the
1990's. 1992's 'The Crying Game' had a secret revealed by the now late
great former movie critic Gene Siskel and Siskel was heavily criticized for
revealing it. He said that to make his point he felt it was necessary to
give away the secret that was shocking (and in some cases offensive) to many
people. Jordan ended up winning an Oscar for the film's original screenplay
and stunningly original it was, filled with observations about the IRA, its
volunteers and the rash political and sexual overtones of the film's
characters. Jordan seemed surprised by winning an Oscar and had to rush up
on stage after a quick trip back from the men's room.
Seven years later, Neil Jordan's 'The End of the Affair' feels like you
bought an old house, cleaned it out and in the process, found and read the
callous diary of an adulteress and you picture it with all of its soap opera
type qualities from stories you've read about and seen a thousand times.
This isn't such a bad thing but the movie's reasoning that it is great film
making is a legend in its own mind. Actor Ralph Fiennes was said to be very
upset with the adult rating the film received but that rating is justified
as this movie displays acts of sex, violence and repressed feelings taken
during and after World War II.
The story of 'The End of the Affair' is based on an early 1950's novel by
Graham Greene, allegedly about his own experiences during WW II. Stephen
Rea is a government member named Henry Miles and is married to Sarah
(Julianne Moore). Writer Maurice Bendix (Ralph Fiennes) is her lover. The
Catholic faith is used as a metaphor for the story's hidden range of ideas
and any film that combines a dash of religion and heavy doses of adultery
during the backdrop of history's darkest time certainly deserves a look.
It's just unfortunate that this film tries to use repetition to make a point
but makes it in a rather tiresome fashion.
The movie has a point of view from its main characters that is told
separately by each one and the perilous, if perhaps co-incidental fate that
comes to one of them, is rather pretentious and smells like a theme from the
golden age of cinema, unsuitable for many of today's movie buffs, but
fitting for others at the same time.
'The End of the Affair' may be too melodramatic for some. It was for me.
It had me restlessly shifting in my seat at about half way through but I
found it very authentic looking. There are three key scenes that glow with
authenticity. The beginning where two of the male leads meet on a dark and
rainy English night is ripe with authenticity. The indoor scene at the
Miles' residence is lavishly decorated with authentic props for its era.
There is also a diner scene where director of photography Roger Pratt takes
cues from Neil Jordan and moves his camera to play out the reeling emotions
the two lovers have in wrestling with their conscience.
What is disappointing about the film is the performance of Ralph Fiennes.
His turns in 1993's 'Schindler's List' which brought him instant fame and
stature in motion pictures and a well deserved Oscar nomination, along with
his dry and coldly laced Oscar nominated performance in 'The English
Patient' seem so memorable compared to his performance here. I don't want
to be too hard on him because he is one of the best in the business but he
just seems to be saying his lines with all the feelings of a daytime soap
opera actor. The same can be said for Julianne Moore. Her performance is
better but is still one character we've seen played over and over again with
many of the similar qualities of past adulteresses.
Neil Jordan's direction is inventive at times, stiff at times and too heavy
handed in many places for me to recommend it but there is an old saying
that goes: "The only thing new is the history you don't know". 'The End of
the Affair' isn't a new theme, it's a film with a historical past seen too
often in motion pictures and is wearing thin at the start of a new century.
Copyright © 2000 Walter Frith