The End of the Affair (1999), with Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore: A Film Review

by Mira

It was The End of the Affair (1999) and The Quiet American (2002), the movies, which got me really interested in Graham Greene. I can’t wait to read the books.

Simple words gain so much power in this movie. I don't know about Graham Greene's book, but I kept writing down quotes, some of which seem benign ("You see, Bendrix, never make a promise. You may have to keep it.") but which in the context of the film were extremely powerful. The way the director, scriptwriter and actors controlled emotion while also making a very strong emotional impact is brilliant. Ralph Fiennes was better than ever. His acting extended to vague expressions on his thin lips and the waters of his eyes - OK, I'm exaggerating a bit, but you don't see that kind of subtle acting very often. Fabulous! Julianne Moore was also very good, and Stephen Rea, who played Henry, did a great job as well.

The End of the Affair is about two lovers, Bendrix and Sarah, during WWII in London. Henry is Sarah's by-standing husband. Bendrix and Sarah have a passionate affair and then Sarah pulls back. Bendrix wants her back. Sarah thinks he'll always have her heart. For more, see the film.

The End of the Affair (1999) was directed by Neil Jordan. Michael Nyman wrote the music. I feel this movie is a bit of everything: Hollywood production, European film, and art film.

I fell in love with the way this film was made. The light, the interior sets, the narrative techniques and the way the story is revealed to us. The flashbacks on the staircase at the beginning -- what a great opening. And it could have easily gone wrong, that and many other scenes. But, even though the film does push sentimentality almost to the point where it becomes too much, it never quite crosses that threshold. The scenes and acting are always well calibrated, never self-indulgent or gratuitous. Well, with two exceptions, I felt. There's one moment where I felt a sex scene lingers too long and doesn't go anywhere, and then there's the blast scene which ends up being told three times.

The End of the Affair (1999)
The End of the Affair (1999)

The bottom line: This movie seems so simple in its story, in its words, and yet the script and scenes unfold so brilliantly that (almost) every single moment of the movie is to be treasured. "Dear Maurice, you can't go on fighting. It's only love, after all."

P.S. Well, I have to add this. I would have liked just a little bit more complexity. What exactly did she love in him, and what did he love in her? It's suggested they're both complex characters, and yet that complexity leaves too much to be guessed at.

The End of the Affair (1999) DVD
The End of the Affair
A Few Months Later . . .

I watched this DVD a few months ago, and wrote the movie review at that time. Rereading it, I remember so vividly the things I made reference to: Ralph Fiennes’ eyes (which I see on Google are dubbed the most gorgeous in Hollywood by some moviegoers), Julianne Moore’s portrayal of restrained emotions and a love that goes beyond physical encounters and exchanges, or Stephen Rea’s character, that you'd be hard-pressed to find in real life, a bit like Querry in Greene’s A Burnt-Out Case in that respect.

Reading Graham Greene is a Pleasure

Short review of Graham Greene's A Burnt-Out Case, one of his lesser-known books

Yes, I went on to read my first Graham Greene book. Never too late to start. The Burnt-Out Case, it was called. It's a book about an architect named Querry who seeks oblivion in a fictional Congo, at a leproserie run by a number of Christian fathers. There he engages with the fathers, the doctors, a journalist who comes looking for him in that remote village, a businessman and his wife. The book is a great deal about lost faith, but it deals with other themes as well.

Reading the book it appeared at first that the writer was too detached from his story and characters. Maybe that was the point, to convey a sense of "lack," as Giles Foden writes in the Introduction to the 2004 Vintage edition. Foden perceived it "at the level of novelistic satisfaction, if not psychological impact." I agree that psychologically it doesn't pull us in with the urgency that some writers weave. And yet, for the message to work, the book probably had to be this way.

When I finished it, I felt pain exactly where I expected the writer to touch me all along. When Querry's life was taken away, I felt I wanted the man alive. Felt I had become involved with him after all despite the fact that throughout the book I didn't sympathize with the way he was struggling with his missing faith. I felt his words were repetitive, but it was those repetitive words, brushing over a faith that was no longer in his heart, that eventually sent home the vacuity that disbelieving (rather than not having any faith at all) feels like.

So in the end it was quite an interesting experiment for a novel about faith. And I felt the story was quite appropriate to underline various thoughts on having and working in faith, missing faith rather than lacking faith, lacking faith, and deceiving yourself that you have faith. The characters are representative of all these positions (the fathers; Querry; the doctor; Ryker).

I now want to read The End of the Affair and The Quiet American, and see their 1950s movie incarnations.

Some Graham Greene Books

The End of the Affair, The Quiet American, and A Burnt-Out Case
The End of the Affair: (movie tie-in ...
$14.00  $1.32
The Quiet American (Penguin Classics ...
$17.00  $6.37
A Burnt-Out Case (Classic, 20th-Centu...
$15.00  $4.93

Some Graham Greene Movies

The Quiet American (2002), with Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser. The Quiet American (1958), with Audie Murphy and Michael Redgrave. The End of the Affair (1955), with Deborah Kerr and Van Johnson
The Quiet American
$6.59  $4.47
The Quiet American
Only $3.98
The End of the Affair
$9.38  $4.95
Updated: 02/11/2014, Mira
 
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Mira 10 days ago

I really liked The Quiet American, the version with Michael Caine. Will have to see the other one as well. And yes, The End of the Affair too.

DerdriuMarriner 10 days ago

Mira, Nice review! "The Quiet American" is the book that I go back to in Graham Green's literary output. Both the older and the recent versions of "The End of the Affair" and "The Quiet American" merit purchase, viewing and re-viewing even though I particularly like Audie Murphy's and Sir Michael Redgrave's interpretations of their roles.

Mira on 02/12/2014

:)

Guest on 02/12/2014

Mira, Ditto!

Mira on 02/12/2014

Yes, there's a lot of good stuff out there :). Thank you, Emma, for stopping by. I enjoy your visits :-)

Guest on 02/11/2014

Mira, You're welcome. I've add the book and both films (End of the Affair, Quiet American) to my list. My, how my list grows!:0

Mira on 02/11/2014

Thanks, Emma! I try :)
I now have the book The End of the Affair, too. Thanks for reminding me that I wanted to read it :)

Guest on 02/11/2014

Mira, Here's another film I'm not recalling. Ralph Fiennes' eyes are distinctive.
I'm not recalling "The Quiet American," either.
Wonderful review. I admire your restraint in not giving away details.:-)

Mira on 02/07/2013

Oh, this is another one of my all-time favorites. And the storyline is so simple, I don't even know what it is about this movie that grips the soul. Well, I know actually, it's Graham Greene. I imagine the book must be marvelous. I'll have to read it soon.

katiem2 on 02/07/2013

This sounds like a well developed movie with a great story line. Looking forward to it, putting it on my movies to watch list. :)K

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