Jonathan Pryce and Rakie Ayola meet cutely in their cabin, thrown together by a booking error. It is the premise for a screwball comedy, but it is soon clear that screwball is not one of the shots in Winterson's repertoire - she is too busy arranging brightly-coloured balls into pretty patterns. Pryce plays Duncan Stewart, a forger who may also have forged himself, while Ayola plays Gabriel Angel ("tighten that gag, nurse. I can still hear the moans"), a young girl who dreams of learning to fly, like her beloved grandfather. In the next cabin are Doctor Angela Bead and her companion Gwendoline Quim ("tighter, goddamn it, tighter!"), two returning missionaries. John Hurt prowls around as nemesis, in the shape of an art historian who has unfinished business with Duncan: matters of murder and the forgery of a Titian. There is much talk of truth and flight, art and life, and enough gravid symbolism to sink a battle-cruiser.
But while flight is the sustaining theme, the film never soars. The characterisation is Cluedo with pretensions, and the dialogue suspends the actors in that ungainly, undignified dangle which you associate with stage flying, the wires robbing them of all powers of independent movement. There are a couple of moments when characters manage to get their feet to the floor, when some sense of real weight returns to the story - as in a radiant scene when the two missionaries cautiously declare their mutual love after 32 years of decorous containment (beautifully acted by Vanessa Redgrave and Dorothy Tutin). But, for the most part, these people are simply Winterson's puppets, jerked around by the symbolic demands of the plot.
Beeban Kidron's direction appears to be a kind of surrender, dutifully sup- plying visual equivalents for Winterson's sterile symmetries but despairing of any greater vivacity. It would have been impossible, anyway, such is the pomp of the story's advancement - everything unrolls at the same stately pace, a religious procession bearing the reliquaries of Winterson's prose. It's as though the author thinks every word is infinitely precious. She's right, though perhaps not in the way she imagines.
The physicist Niels Bohr once snapped at Einstein: "You are not thinking. You are merely being logical". The same charge could be levelled against Enoch Powell, the subject of Odd Man Out (Sat BBC2), an engrossing profile by Michael Cockerell. Old age has transformed Powell into Blakey from On The Buses, but a Blakey possessed of fearsome clarity of mind and economy of expression. "I was not satisfactory," Powell said flatly, explaining what had gone wrong with his first love affair. His conversation throughout was uncannily grammatical, issuing as a string of philosophical premises or textbook sentences.
Cockerell had wonderful material with which to evoke the icy blaze of his life, including a photograph of Enoch in the bath, eyes staring wildly, and an interview with Mrs Thatcher in which she recalled Enoch's physical charisma in Cabinet. So that's where she got the eyeballs from, you realised.
The mystery of how such a fastidious intellect could bring itself to dabble in the gutter of racial hatred remained unsolved, but you were given clues. This was a tragedy of intellectual vanity, it seems, the story of a man who could not change his mind because he simply couldn't bring himself to believe that such an exquisite machine might have malfunctioned in the first place.Reuse content