Archive for August 16, 2022

Wha

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2022 by dcairns

Picked up Faber & Faber’s published screenplay for The Heat of the Day, written by Harold Pinter, based on Elizabeth Bowen’s novel, filmed by Granada Television in the UK. The script is excellent — love Pinter — but my favourite line was on page 20. The character Harrison is being cryptic and menacing. He will be played by Michael Gambon, she by Patricia Hodge. The teleplay airs in 1990.

HARRISON

[…] if you and I could arrange things between us, things . . . might be arranged.

STELLA

Oh, for Christ’s sake, get to the point! What the hell are you talking about.

Silence.

Well said, Stella! What absolutely everybody would want to say if they could climb into a Pinter scene. Also note the very deliberate omission of the question mark, which makes the line dismissive rather than inquisitive.

The line isn’t in the novel — I own a copy, having bought it because I love Darkness Falls from the Air by Nigel Balchin and I read an article that lumped the two together. But I haven’t actually read it, I keep meaning to. But I checked the early chapters and found the Harrison-Stella scene. All the dialogue is different, but it all sounds amazingly Pinteresque. Comedy of menace. But since Pinter had to condense, he’s thrown out all the specific words and just kept the tone.

Here’s a bit of Bowen:

Harrison uttered a deprecating laugh. He then said: ‘Ever mentioned my name?’

‘You mean, has he mentioned your name to me?’

‘No; have you mentioned my name to him?’

‘I’ve no idea; I may have; really I don’t remember.’ She paused and ground out her cigarette. ‘Look here,’ she said, ‘you asked yourself here this evening — it would not be too much to say that you forced your way in — because, you said, it was urgent that you should tell me something. Just exactly what have you come to say?’

‘As a matter of fact, that is what I’ve been getting round to. Now we’ve got there, I hardly know how to put it.’

She, on her side, could not have sat looking blanker. It was a trick of Harrison’s to drop rather than raise his voice for emphasis: he thus now said ultra-softly: ‘You should be a bit more careful whom you know.’

‘In general?’ Stella returned, in a tone which by contrast was high and cool.

He had, as though under instruction, kept his eyes on the photograph. ‘Actually, I did rather mean in particular.’

And on like that for pages, marvelous pages. Insinuation and deflection. Pure Pinter, avant la lettre, and at greater length than a TV play could allow.

So I suppose I have to read the novel, and I ought to watch the TV play. But now that I’ve read this I’m more inclined to watch BETRAYAL and TURTLE DIARIES, also scripted by Pinter, and read his script for The Proust Film, which I also bought — Joseph Losey’s unmade, untitled Proust project. Instead of which I’m reading Connie Willis’ Blackout and All Clear, also set in WWII, and just watched EICHMANN, with Thomas Kretschmann, written by Snoo Wilson of all people and directed by Robert VAMPIRE CIRCUS Young. But I don’t have anything to say about it.