Picks and Pans Review: Another Country
With his first feature, Polish director Marek Kanievska proves himself a magician. He has transformed an oblique London stage hit into an absorbing, accessible movie that bedevils the mind with memorable images, even if there is less to it than meets the eye. Adapted by Julian Mitchell, who wrote the play, this class-conscious drama is a meditation on the motives of Guy Burgess, the proper English diplomat who turned traitor and defected to the Soviet Union in 1951. Here he is called Guy Bennett. As a teenager in 1932, he is one of his prestigious boarding school's best and brightest students. Within the institution's baroque social system, which is the movie's real villain, the openly ambitious and homosexual young man seems assured of membership in the school's elite ranks. But when his infatuation with a fellow student turns into an affair and his sexual orientation proves more than a phase, the social system turns against him. Kanievska, who previously directed for English and Australian television, artfully captures the hypocrisy of the academic hierarchy. As Bennett, spindly Rupert Everett, who created the role in London, gives a first-class performance. And as the school's would-be socialist, Colin Firth capably etches the friend who fuels Bennett's betrayal of the Empire. But poignant performances and the wise adaptation cannot camouflage the speciousness of playwright Mitchell's glib conceit. Are we really to believe that social slights make someone a spy? Despite the appeal of his diversionary tactics, Kanievska never makes Mitchell's case completely persuasive. Like its hero, Another Country is essentially a sham, but an elegant one. (PG)
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