Saturday, 26 April 2014

Wetherby (1985)

"Turns out I was a subplot. The real story was happening elsewhere"

Wetherby, David Hare's haunting yet not altogether balanced 1985 film, is an attempt to create intelligent and poetic theatrical drama in the context of the cinema.

On the surface, Wetherby is about a stranger (Tim McInnerny) who comes to the titular Yorkshire town and inveigles his way into a private dinner party before returning the next day to commit suicide in front of his hostess (Vanessa Redgrave)

Much of the film concerns itself not only in the subsequent police investigation and Redgrave and her small social circle (which includes Judi Dench, Ian Holm and Tom Wilkinson) coming to terms with what happened, with each witness statement offering up a news glimpse into what happened at the dinner party, Rashomon style.  

This plot point poses some intriguing and thought provoking questions; not only that of why did he choose to kill himself in such a way but also why does the death of a stranger, someone seemingly unknown, affect people so greatly? Hare's film, with an elliptical grace, explores the introspective here and suggests a loneliness and a sense of stagnation within Redgrave's principal character which will steadily reveal itself before the resolution. Like a game of 'Find The Lady' you'd do well to not completely focus on what it seems you are expected to focus on, one needs to looks beyond the shocking suicide of McInnerny and the subsequent red herring of the girl he harassed and stalked showing up, played by the wonderful Suzanna Hamilton. 

Indeed there's far more than initially meets the eye here as exemplified in the Redgrave character's flashbacks to her youth (where she is played by Natasha Richardson, Redgrave's daughter) and her love affair with a pilot heading out to Malaya. 

There's also the latent political content to consider, namely Hare's attempt to examine and explore the culture of the impersonal, which he saw as a key aspect of Thatcher's Britain, a tone he tried to invoke within the film.

Overall Wetherby may be a little uneven, it may beguile and frustrate audiences in equal measure but it has to be applauded for offering something so deep and intelligent away from the theatre and into the cinema.

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