Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Three into two won't go (4½ Stars)

This is a powerful family drama made in England in 1969. For some unfathomable reason it has never been released on DVD, but thankfully it's still being shown occasionally on British television.

Steve Howard (played by Rod Steiger) is a sales director who often has to leave home on business trips. While driving home from Manchester he picks up Ella, a hitchhiker played by Judy Geeson. From the beginning, even before she gets into the car, she makes it clear to him that she's in charge and he has to do whatever she wants. They pull into a hotel outside Birmingham where they sleep with one another. The next day he drives home. The end... or is it?

No, this is just the beginning. This is where the nightmare begins. The similarity with "Fatal Attraction" is striking. Ella travels to Steve's home and makes friends with his wife. Then she claims to be pregnant, and does everything she can to break up the marriage. Unlike "Fatal Attraction" -- sorry, this is a spoiler -- Ella doesn't really want the married man for herself. She persuades him to leave his wife, waits for him to tell his wife, then says that she doesn't want him because he's too old for her. Ella's motivation in life is to have fun, as she tells Steve when they first meet. She breaks up the marriage simply because she enjoys doing it.

This is a beautiful film which is stylistically like Eric Rohmer's films. The lack of background music makes the film stark and cold. If you get the chance to see this on television it's worth it.

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