Sunday, 12 January 2014
The Deadly Affair 
Within in a year of each other John le Carré was adapted twice to brilliant effect. Following in the footsteps of The Spy who Came in from the Cold, Lumet made the moody, downbeat and deglamorized spy thriller The Deadly Affair that marvelously combined a grimy tale of espionage, intrigues, betrayals and double games with engaging character study. And London’s gloomy weather provided the perfect counterpart for the film’s theme, tone and atmosphere. Charles Dobbs (James Mason) is a mild-mannered, middle-aged MI5 agent, married to the beautiful, coquettish and philandering Ann (Harriet Andersson) who’s much younger to him. When a man placed high in the Foreign Office, who he’s been asked to do a background check on, mysteriously commits suicide, it opens a can of worms leading to a collision of his personal and professional lives. He quits his job in order to privately investigate the incident, and enlists the aid of a retired cop (Harry Andrews) for the slowly unravelling case. Meanwhile, Dieter (Maximilian Schell), an old friend and former operative behind enemy lines during WWII days, suddenly arrives in his life and gets embroiled in a clandestine affair with his wife. Mason was magnificent as the unlikely spy whose soft nature belies his sharp mind and doggedness, while Andrews, whose flashes of toughness alternate with bouts of sleepiness, was also very good. The taut screenplay was laced with sardonic, self-deprecatory humour and exquisite observations, and demystified the glamour associated with spies, and stressed that terms like ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ are entirely circumstantial. The drab, subdued colour photography and minimalist jazz-based score perfectly captured Dobbs’ sordid and melancholic world.
Director: Sidney Lumet
Genre: Thriller/Spy Thriller/Mystery