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Movie Review

The End of the Affair

Reviewed by: Jim O’Neill

Very Offensive
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1 hr. 45 min.
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USA Release:
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Scene from “The End of the Affair”

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Featuring: Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore, Stephen Rea
Director: Neil Jordan
Producer: Stephen Woolley, Neil Jordan
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

“The End of the Affair” is based on Graham Greene’s World War II novel about a British novelist named Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes) who has a war-time romance with a married woman named Sara (Julianne Moore). The film is told mostly from Bendrix’s point of view as he remembers the events that led up to the affair and the affair’s climax which took place during the blitzkrieg of London in 1940.

Sara’s husband, Henry (Stephen Rea) suspects that his wife has had or is having an affair. He does not suspect Bendrix, but confides in him and asks his help in uncovering the details of Sara’s infidelity. Bendrix hires a private investigator who stumbles and misfires as his search for the truth remains elusive not only to him but to the betrayed husband and even to the lovers. No one, except perhaps Sara, seems capable of understanding what role the war, the marriage, the people or their faith played in bringing them together and moving them apart. Bendrix does not even call his collected memories a love story. He calls it his “diary of hate”. Presumably it is God whom he hates. God, after all, carved the wedge between him and Sara when she turned to God for mercy. As consuming as his disdain for the almighty is, Bendrix still has contempt to spare: for Henry, for Sara, for the war, and especially for himself. He is given more pieces of the story than anyone else, and he is the story’s main player, yet for all his probing and posturing and restructuring, he can’t comprehend the content and the meaning of his life or of his times. He is a tragic man in tragic times. Even love can’t rescue him.

Scene from “The End of the Affair”The film has an overlapping, protean feel. It reminded me of novels from the 1950s—mostly pulp caper novels, and films from the same period—mostly B movies of the crime genre, that told the same story from different points of view and left the viewer to put the pieces together at the end. You got to the truth by adding up the lies, the deceits and the contradictions. Kubrick did it best in his 1956 film, “The Killing”. I’ve never seen it done with a love story though. Bergman tried it in a kind of existential cryptic way, but it never helped the story. He lost me in movies like “Cries and Whispers” and “Scenes from a Marriage” when he was all over the lot. Some scenes from “The End of the Affair” are retold from different angles and different viewpoints. The narrative moves in a zig zag back and forth pattern through time and thought. Director Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game”), a master at bringing the viewer to a conclusive threshold only to steer him onto another course, maneuvers the process in a way that illuminates motivation and character, and maintains a clear and tangible story line.

The love affair’s climax is told several times with different perspectives, different intensities and different outcomes. The romance peaks and ends due to the random destructive reality of a bomb or to the focused cleansing spirit of a supreme being. Or neither. Or both. It is not a clear choice. Or a simple one. Choices about love and faith never are. Jordan has the confidence, and the artistic honesty, to allow the viewer to make that choice. This daring move stands in vivid contrast to most of today’s celebrated movies (“The Cider House Rules”, “American Beauty”, “The Green Mile”, “Erin Brockovich”) which take a moral or spiritual issue, define it on their terms, and tenderize their point of view to make it palatable but unquestionable to a viewing public. In “The End of the Affair” Neil Jordan presents conflicts and questions which he allows the viewers to resolve and answer. In doing so, he has told a remarkable story about remarkable, if flawed, people.

Graphic content includes sexual movement and nudity between non-married partners, wartime events, and some offensive verbal content.

Viewer Comments
…Even though I’m totally against an illicit affair between two unmarried people, and I consider this to be totally wrong and unfair to the husband, the movie does point somehow to God and His position in our lives. I really liked the way Sara prayed for a miracle and promised God that she will not see Maurice again if God would bring him back to life. That reminds nonbelievers that our God is still the God of miracles and he does answer prayer. Also, it was very interesting to notice that after being so stubborn and denying the existence of God, Maurice did talk to God at the end and asked Him to take care of Sara and Henry. Well, if you wanna see this movie, you better use your thinking ability because it is a deep movie. Again, the movie has a lot of negative aspects like the relationship between two unmarried people and several sex scenes, but you would definitely come up with a couple of good ideas if you concentrated in the movie and not in the pop corn! My Ratings: [2/2½]
—Ghaly Shafik, age 20