Tending to All of his Needs
After buying himself a London pad, the upper class Tony (James Fox - Sherlock Holmes) employs Barrett (Dirk Bogarde - H.M.S. Defiant) to be his man servant, to basically help him with everything and anything. But Tony's girlfriend Susan (Wendy Craig) takes a quick dislike to Barrett who feels he is dominating her boyfriend's life and wants him to be fired. When Tony agrees to hire Barrett's sister Vera (Sarah Miles - White Mischief) on a trial basis things take a dramatic turn when first he ends up seduced by her but then discovers that Vera is in fact Barrett's lover. After firing them both Tony ends up re-employing Barrett having missed him leading to a very dramatic change of affairs.
I like to lay my cards on the table upfront and knew I would struggle to enjoy "The Servant" before I watched it. Partly because I had read some glowing observations about the stunning camera work which totally ignored the story but also because I saw Harold Pinter as the screenwriter. Now there are those who love Pinter's style and clever use of dialogue but I am not one of them and find this wordy drama from the 1960's a bit of a struggle despite the fact this is a dark little tale which with age seems to have an even darker extra element.
Part of the trouble is that "The Servant" is the sort of movie which doesn't serve things up on a plate but slowly establishes things. Nothing wrong with that for a minute but when it seems to be establishing nothing for long periods of time it becomes laborious and tiresome. When eventually things do start to happen it is good but you need to wade through a lot of meandering nothingness to get to it.
It is because of that why it is sort of understandable that many people's observations on the movie are dominated by the movies look. Now there is no denying that director Joseph Losey and cinematographer Douglas Slocombe have crafted a stunning looking movie. The flowing camera work, the alternative and abstract views as well as the use of mirrors all combine to make it stand out visually from the crowd.
Then there is the acting and whilst I found the dialogue often over worked the acting is good throughout with James Fox, Wendy Craig and Sarah Miles all doing a first rate job. Although due to the nature of his character it is Dirk Bogarde who owns the movie and he brings to life the sinister side of Barrett quite brilliantly.
What this all boils down to is that in all honesty "The Servant" is a good movie but it is not my cup of tea because of its slow, even laborious pacing and over worked dialogue makes it hard work.