Sog.: based on the novel of the same name (1947) by Robin Maugham. Scen.: Harold Pinter. F.: Douglas Slocombe. M.: Reginald Mills. Scgf.: Richard Macdonald, Ted Clements. Mus.: John Dankworth. Int.: Dirk Bogarde (Hugo Barrett), Sarah Miles (Vera), Wendy Craig (Susan), James Fox (Tony Mounset), Catherine Lacey (Lady Mounset), Richard Vernon (Lord Mounset), Patrick Magee (il vescovo), Harold Pinter (uomo d’affari). Prod.: Joseph Losey, Norman Priggen per Springbok Productions. DCP. D.: 115’. Col.
Dirk Bogarde’s standing in the arena of British and international cinema is both central and problematic in two ways. He was an extremely popular young actor, even a matinee idol, specializing in comedies, war adventures and crime stories. This phase, which started in the late 1940s and lasted a little over a decade, was followed by an expanding and increasingly significant career in ‘art film’, where Bogarde’s position was international and difficult to relate to his former incarnation. The rise of Bogarde in The Servant is indeed a miraculous case, followed by many significant roles as a trusted actor with the best directors. The Servant appeared when the Profumo scandal, with its call girls and double standards was exposed; the film was seen as a metaphor for a class system that had outlived its time and deserved to be not only illuminated but destroyed. Pinter and Losey’s vision of a servant in the world of a gated house who ‘eats up’ his master has been compared with Sartre’s ‘hell’. People tend to enslave each other by turning their neighbour into their object. Love and sexuality become instruments of power. Undoubtedly, the parasite of class society sketched by Bogarde, this blotting paper that absorbs the perversion of the system from multiple angles, is one of the highlights of his career. Losey analyses the work in a way that tangibly connects with Bogarde’s interpretation: “The film is about a young aristocrat who is still living in the 18th century and yet does not want to enter the 1900s. He wants to rule the house “like a mother” or like a “grandmother”, and wants a servant who goes well with “old beloved objects”. The result is that he hires a servant who is as crooked and mendacious as the master, but a little more realistic; and therefore also more dangerous. The Servant is a film about people for whom slavery is a way of life.” The director Losey, the author Harold Pinter, and Bogarde continued their exploration of the mysteries of the English way of life and the malice of the class system. One prestige success followed another. Bogarde’s performance in The Servant was his great turning-point, still among his most exciting and disturbing roles.
Peter von Bagh, Dirk Bogarde, in Tähtien kirja (The Book of the Stars), Otava, Helsinki 2006 (translated by Antti Alanen)