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Directed by Phillip Kaufman

Reviewed by
Bill Hubbard
3.5 stars

The fine script for this film is by Doug Wright from his own play, so presumably it remains close to the original text. However I can imagine this being more potent in a theatrical context, where the attention is more closely focussed on ideas carried forth by the particular characterological interaction. Precisely because Kauffman is such a superb visual artist and the cinematography and production design is of such high quality those ideas and their delivery tend to get swamped. The net effect is that you know you've seen a very well-made film and there were things in it which should have moved you, but you're not really sure you care. For this film lacks two things - atmosphere and drama. In the first instance, there is little sense of what must have been the abominable conditions of an 18th century bedlam as say One Flew Over The Cukoo's Nest told us about the conditions of its late 20th century equivalent. In the second instance although individually each performance is excellent, Rush doing a fine job in a role which we can probably be thankful did not go to John Malkovich, and Michael Caine a scene-stealer as the sadist avant la lettre, Roymer-Coullard, there is smoke here but no real fire. BH

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