The Servant (1963)

The Servant
Directed by Joseph Losey
Written by Harold Pinter from a novel by Robin Maugham
1963/UK
Elstree Distributors/Springbok Productions
First viewing/My DVD collection
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Hugo Barrett: I’ll tell you what I am. I’m a gentleman’s gentleman, and you’re no bloody GENTLEMAN!

I loved Losey and Pinter’s savage Darwinian study of corruption and class struggle.

The apparently independently wealth Tony (James Fox) has just returned from Africa and is setting himself up in posh digs in London.  The new house is entirely undecorated and Tony is living in squalor.  He has advertised for a man-servant and Barrett (Dirk Bogarde) answers the call.  Barrett is the complete gentleman’s gentleman and begins cooking gourmet meals and advising on interior design.  It soon becomes evident Tony needs a servant because he is incapable of taking care of himself, a fact not lost on Barrett.  Tony’s fiancee Susan takes an instant dislike to Barrett and they are soon busy sabotaging each other.

Before we know it, Barrett has installed his “sister” Vera (Sarah Miles) as housemaid. I won’t reveal more of the plot of this complex psychological thriller,

Well, this went immediately on my list of favorite new-to-me films for 2018!  It illustrates how a dark film filled with unlikeable characters can nevertheless be constantly surprising and delightful.  This is possibly Bogarde’s greatest perfomance and Fox and Miles easily match him.  The screenplay is delicious and the production and direction tells the story superbly.  Highly recommended.

2 thoughts on “The Servant (1963)

  1. I am afraid I was not as excited about this movie as you were. It is a good movie, but I did not understand the characters. I was hoping the extra material would help me understand, but while it was interesting it never touched the subject matter of the movie. Why is Barrett plotting? What is he trying to achieve? And why was Tony so easily led by him. The impression that it all felt unmotivated ruined it a bit for me.

    • Only my opinion. Barrett is a sociopath. He believes that he deserves all the things that Tony has and that Tony does not. Alcoholics are easily led. What I loved the most about the film was the black humor. That scene about ponchos and gauchos is priceless!

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