Restored as part of the Joseph Losey retrospective at the British Film Institute, this 1967 drama of betrayal during a languid Oxford summer has a mighty – and a mighty baffling – reputation.
Dirk Bogarde is at his most painfully costive as a philosophy don caught in a three-way tussle with colleague Stanley Baker and student Michael York for the love of passive Austrian aristo Jacqueline Sassard.
Harold Pinter wrote the script, so deceit, inanition and misanthropy are inevitably to the fore: his class loathing would also have been congenial to Losey. Everybody talks in the same halting, disjointed style, with the trademark pauses telling us what lies just below the ostensibly civilised surface.
However, the overall effect is so full of loathing and meanness that one hardly cares for those subliminal tremors, and the arch structuring of the story – the accident, then the long flashback – makes it dramatically inert.