The Messenger – Once upon a time in the cinema

Even flowers are created by the coupling of the sun and the earth. ” from DHLawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”

Love’s bitter failure over social prejudice

Faithful adaptation of the eponymous novel by LP Hartley, The messenger takes a retrospective look at a solar past imbued with nostalgia and melancholy. While the present of the narrator-speaker is dull and elliptical, the past of the novel and its evocation exert an indelible influence on this same present. It is this broken past that will condition the entire life of the narrator who has reached an advanced adult age. Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter play these
oppositions. Léo Colston’s loss of innocence through premature learning of adulthood underscores the modern experience of time shattered in its tracks: a paradox that deprives the hero-narrator of his present and alienates him from his past in a divorce. irreconcilable.

The messenger is a brilliant transcription of a naturally ingenuous childhood, a subtle meditation on memory and, at the same time, an incisive critique of the British “landowner gentry” and their rigid institutions that shaped their archaic class system.

The pastoral setting is set: the country manor house, the official Anglican church, the cricket ground, the picturesque village of Norwich in Norfolk County. The young Léo Colston, of a disarming docility of spirit, learns about life in contact with these condescending squirrels, grouped together in a caste affiliation and these reinforce his feeling of being a foreign body. Joseph Losey explores on the surface this indolent aristocracy basking under a blazing sun in the reinforcement of the application of the codes of their caste.

The one through whom the scandal happens …

Urging her daughter, Marian Maudsley (Julie Christie) to marry the scarred hero Hugh Trimingham (Edward Fox) of the Boer War in order to increase the somewhat tarnished prestige of the family line as she is , evidently more intrigued by the rough masculinity of Ted Burgess (Alan Bates), the sharecropper, Mrs Maudsley, the
A matriarch of the Maudsley lineage, is an inexhaustible source of anxiety and tension, an authoritarian matron who radiates an aura of turmoil around her. Margaret Leighton gave him an imperious demeanor and vindictive fury that earned him an acting award at Cannes as the film scooped the Palme d’Or at Death in Venice by Luchino Visconti. Like the Casanova, a teenager in Venice released a year earlier, it is the meticulous reconstitution of a caste that is crumbling that Joseph Losey shows in this richly illuminated fresco.

A candid Voltairean thrown into a circle of intrigue and nonsense

A tiny point in the magnificence of the rural escapes of the Norfolk terroir which unfurl their sheep, Leo is measured against the immensity as he walks recklessly to deliver his mail from the heart, red with confusion, as if he were caught in the act. truant from school.

The composer Michel Legrand has devised a musical leitmotif that is both haunting and disturbing, which paradoxically leaves a fatal outcome in a bucolic atmosphere of reading and banter. It takes a whole non-conformist journey off the beaten track to disturb this slack and indolent surface that an exceptional summer in these latitudes endures. Through his observations of the adult world, Léo follows the same life learning experience as Voltaire’s Candide. His purity of soul reveals their depravity around him. From a
middle class, Leo is denied for any social affiliation and merges into a convenient anonymity that allows him to emphasize class distinctions to the limits of the field of a cricket game which sees rustic nature clash against cultivated finesse . This indolent sport if it is judged by the yawns that it snatches and the bees to hunt, is also a strong social marker in that it allows the commoner to gain the ascendancy over the nobility as we are witnessing in the movie.

Léo is the involuntary witness to the crumbling of this high aristocratic society frozen in the pageantry. The frustration and sexual inhibitions of the adulterous couple formed by Marian Maudsley and Ted Burgess end up finding a scapegoat in the emotional person of this outsider with eyes wide open on reality.

The young actor Dominic Guard (Léo Colston) alone carries the look of the film; always frowning at the escapades of adults that he is nevertheless eager to understand. Disillusioned by adulthood, he perceives it as less inspiring than he imagined. In English, “greenness” characterizes inexperience and naivety and it is the color green, the choice of which is not fortuitous, which affects the clothes which this family, which straddles the noble label, affables it. The green chameleon blends in and moves at ease in the rough edges of the benevolent landscape. Losey films it in magnificent, beautifully encased ascending shots that are in substance reminiscent of those of Two men on the run (Figures in a landscape-1970), his previous film. The adults of this caste take advantage of Leo’s susceptibility and complacent goodwill. The latter goes so far as to express an inclination not to mention his pubescent fascination with physical love. He then becomes the involuntary toy of their marivauding.

At the epilogue of the film and through elliptical flashforwards, we learn that Leo never got married due to the trauma he suffered and, by inference, never had any relationship whatsoever. sort with the female sex. Childish candor and innocence were annihilated by this trauma of the snub of the adulterous relationship between Ted and Marian revealed in broad daylight. The intrusive scenes of aging Leo (Michael Redgrave) are disturbing and disruptive both in their enunciating brevity. The criticism that can be made a posteriori is their lack of readability.

In view of the rigid caste system in force in England in 1900, it is difficult to imagine for a single moment that a commoner could marry in fair marriage with a fair-skinned aristocrat. More intrigued by Ted Burgess’ rough masculinity, Marian Maudsley turned away from the social conventions of the time. Instead of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence where the gamekeeper replaces the sharecropper, we are witnessing the failure of love over social prejudices. Marian’s comings and goings and her amorous inconstancy hardly seem to shake the satisfied snobbery and the steadfast convictions of the Maudsley family as frozen in their class certainties for eternity.

The messenger is distributed in theaters in its restored 4K version by the Acacias.

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The Messenger – Once upon a time in the cinema