BFI London Film Festival 2011: ‘The Deep Blue Sea’


After an 11-year hiatus, British director Terence Davies returns to screens with his passionately faithful adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea (2011) – which closed the 55th BFI London Film Festival – starring the ever-wonderful Rachel Weisz (star of the upcoming The Bourne Legacy [2012]) and Tom Hiddleston (Archipelago [2010]).

Rattigan’s play is by no means simple and requires the passion and energy that only a director like Davies can give. Set in England in the 1950s, the plot – put in the most basic terms – concerns Hester (Weisz), a married woman who falls in love with RAF pilot Freddie Page (Hiddleston).

The Deep Blue Sea is something of a treatise on love – whether it is better to follow one’s passions and abandon convention (at least convention by 1950s standards) or to follow the traditions of the day. The character of Hester is an intriguing one, the unconventional woman torn between what she wants and what she should do.

The concept of the trapped or isolated women is by no means new – in fact it was the staple diet of 1950s cinema – and being based on a play written in 1952 provides little deviation from the conventions of the day (very true of key pot elements which will not be spoilt). This aside, it is certainly a complex film that warrants more than one viewing to truly appreciate what is happening, Davies admitting himself that it took four or five readings of the play before he knew what was really going on.

There are many, many positives to The Deep Blue Sea – it’s incredibly well shot, with lingering long shots allowing the cast (who are well known for their theatre as well as film work) to demonstrate how talented they are.

The major flaw of the film is an age old dilemma; there is a presumption that theatre can be adapted to film. With The Deep Blue Sea, Davies has certainly created a lavish film, that is highly reminiscent of previous work such as The House of Mirth (2000), but it is the source material that lets it down. Perhaps a more cavalier attitude to the play would have created a more lasting film, but as it stands it is no more than a well-crafted love song harking back to a bygone era: impressive, but you would perhaps expect more from Davies.

For more BFI London Film Festival 2011 coverage, simply follow this link.

Joe Walsh