Another Time, Another Place, Another ....
Guy Burgess is a name which probably means little to people these days, but those past a certain age may recognize it as he was part of a Cambridge spy ring who past on secrets to the Russians. Now "Another Country" is not about Guy Burgess, it is about Guy Bennett, but the truth is that it is loosely based on the life of Burgess and in particular his early years at a posh public school in the 1930s. But then having said that "Another Country" could in effect be about any young man who went to a posh public school in the 1930s because this is a story about the difficulty of being a homosexual in an oppressive system. And it has to be said that it is a fascinating drama which draws you in, partly through Marek Kanievska's brilliant direction but more importantly through a brilliant performance from Rupert Everett.
"Another Country" is book ended by scenes of an old Guy Bennett being interviewed by a young woman, recording his memories for posterity which leads us back to the 1930s and a posh public school. And whilst the school remains nameless in the movie you become immediately aware that this is an elitist school, well spoken young men in top hat and tails walking through historic streets to attend an assembly. We also learn of Guy Bennett (Rupert Everett - St Trinian's 2) who has gone through years of oppressive education and wants little more than to become a prefect, one of the "Gods" who gets to wear the fanciest of waistcoats. And we also become aware of his friendship with Tommy Judd (Colin Firth - The King's Speech) who equally dislikes the oppressive school system as he is a Marxist.
But what this movie is about is the fact that Guy is gay, openly so unlike other pupils who prefer to keep there sexual interactions a secret. That is until two boys are discovered mutually pleasuring each other and one of them commits suicide due to the shame everything changes because house captain, Fowler (Tristan Oliver) uses it as an excuse to clamp down on those who do not tow the line including Bennett and Judd. What this means is we watch as Bennett is forced to keep his feelings hidden for fellow student James Harcourt (Cary Elwes) because of the uproar it would cause and the opportunity it would give the unpopular Fowler to dispense punishment on him.
As such a lot of "Another Country" is about feelings the feelings which Bennett has and the fact he has to keep them quiet, sneaking out at night to be with Harcourt. At the same time we also have Judd's feelings because as a Marxist he disagrees with the schools system yet finds himself in a situation where he may have to betray his own principles for the good of the many. And these two different issues paint a remarkable picture of how difficult life was like at an elitist school if you did not tow the line. It is also an emotional one as Bennett has to deal with his own principles as to whether to blow open everything by naming names of those he has had sexual encounters with or keep quiet in order to protect Harcourt when Fowler finally gets the information to punish him.
Now not only are there some recognizable young faces in "Another Country" but there are also a lot of very good performances. Colin Firth is quietly tough as Tommy Judd delivering the aspect of a young man who is frustrated by the system which almost stops him from learning. Then there is Tristan Oliver as Fowler who rather than coming across like a jumped up little Hitler, which could easily have been the case, we have a truly evil, vindictive young man almost delivering anger through fear. But the real great acting is from Rupert Everett as Guy Bennett because not only does he get the almost frivolity of his character as he makes no attempts to hide his homosexuality but also the pain of having to deal with those who want repress him. But more importantly he gets across the hurt of a system which not only doesn't work for him but also betrays him when it comes to doing the right thing for the many instead of the one.
What this all boils down to is that "Another Country" is an interesting look at a time and a place where homosexuality was a major issues for many. It is both beautifully directed and brilliantly acted and whilst based upon the life of Guy Burgess, who would later be known for being a spy, it could easily be about anyone who faced the oppressive society of an elite school in the 1930s.