Servant, The (1963)
“What do you want from this house?”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Equally compelling is Craig in a role which could easily be tossed off as peripheral or shrewish, but instead posits her as an uneasy bridge between Fox’s two worlds.
Fox, meanwhile, brings just the right blend of arrogance and insecurity required by his role, wherein we easily vaccilate between generalized contempt and authentic pity for his situation.
Viewers should be prepared for an unlikely turn of events midway through, and then another — until one finally realizes this film has become a dark and surreal nightmare. Douglas Slocombe’s shadowy cinematography heightens this sensation:
… and Losey’s direction emphasizes power relations and domination at every turn:
While some have complained that the very odd ending — specifically the unexpected behavior of a particular character — throws one off, I would argue that it’s all of a piece with the film’s vision of Tony’s existence (and by extension, all of upper-class Britain) having become topsy-turvy and unnerved.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)
One thought on “Servant, The (1963)”
Apparently critics and audiences were blown away by this movie when it was released because (acc. to Wikipedia), it was “a savage indictment of the waning English class system, a theme which had been rarely addressed in British cinema.” So maybe timing had something to do with its impact.
Nevertheless, it’s a bad film. I think I’ve now seen it three times and I’m pretty sure I’m done with it. Whatever else this pretentious thing may be, it’s a pointless exercise in cruelty, filled with people it’s impossible to give a flying fuck about. The characters that are front-and-center here aren’t even illuminated in any way in order to make them more understandable (or bearable). These are characters manipulated by a script focused on shock value.
If you’re going to present a situation largely filled with awful people, at least give the audience some depth to grab onto – or at least some interesting verbal flair. Otherwise, you’re swimming in surface slime.
Early on, through his facial expressions, Bogarde (who is so much better in ‘Victim’) telegraphs his intent to bring down Fox; so there goes the element of surprise for the rest of the film. It’s a wonder that Fox can even act his part at all; his character is so ill-conceived that he seems to have no definition. If Fox’s acting isn’t impressive (and it isn’t), he can hardly be blamed.
Craig is nothing more than an entitled, tiresome bitch – and ultimately a hypocrite (in her final action towards Bogarde). Miles is an airhead.
What *almost* makes the film compelling (but not quite) is the flawless work by DP Douglas Slocombe. But the film itself – though widely admired – is an overrated and colossal bore. Not surprisingly, it has a conclusion that is simply a mess.