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  Negatives Shot Down In Flames
Year: 1968
Director: Peter Medak
Stars: Peter McEnery, Diane Cilento, Glenda Jackson, Billy Russell, Norman Rossington, Stephen Lewis, Maurice Denham
Genre: Drama, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Husband and wife Theo (Peter McEnery) and Vivien (Glenda Jackson) share what could best be described as an intimate relationship, one which rarely has input from anyone on the outside thanks to their spending time pretty much wholly in each other's company. This is especially true since Theo's father (Maurice Denham) has been forced to stay at the local hospital instead of with his son, leaving the young man to run the furniture store they live above alone. Now he and his wife indulge in plentiful play acting...

But what if someone was to wander into their lives and burst their bubble? It's not as if Theo and Vivien are enjoying utter marital bliss, as their prime endeavour is to re-enact the relationship between Dr Crippen and his mistress Ethel, even extending to dressing up as their obsession, and resulting in passive aggression from him, and outright aggression from her. This was scripted from Peter Everett's own novel - he had a hand in the screenplay as well - and marked the first time director Peter Medak helmed a movie.

Medak would go on to win respect for bringing difficult material to the screen for the next decade or so, but here many found he was either out of his depth, finding his feet, or simply unable to translate to the audience what on earth was supposed to be going on. To call the meaning of Negatives obscure was no exaggeration, but it did appear to point the way forward to a more psychological British cinema which would particularly be adopted by the creators of thrillers and horrors for the following period of increased freedom in what could be portrayed onscreen. Here, on the other hand, it was problematic.

The relationship between Theo and Vivien was so intense that anyone getting between them would be doing the equivalent of lighting the blue touch paper and stepping back to watch it all take off like a rocket - or in this case, turning the propeller and allowing the fighter biplane to fly into the heavens. The woman who does this is Reingard (Diane Cilento), an enigmatic German who seems to be seducing Theo but for what reason other than to cause trouble is hard to fathom. She visits him at the shop and begins to place ideas in his head, the main one being about the Red Baron of World War One.

What then happens is that Theo replaces his shared fantasy with his wife for one far more selfish as the thought of von Richtoven proves too good to let go, and he goes as far as buying a biplane from a scrapyard and painting it in German colours, essentially pretending to be a fighter ace in all-consuming ways - we actually see through his eyes as he imagines the dogfights. Meanwhile Vivien grows jealous and increasingly berserk, as all the time Reingard observes and kittenishly messes with these minds - actually, you'll be feeling as if she's messing with your mind as well if you're doing anything but accepting the strangeness rather than investigating it and paying close attention to every detail. Even then, what Everett meant looks to have been entrenched in his own mind, and intractable as one stifling, airless scene follows another without much variation. If you like drama where oddballs took mental chunks out of each other, then you'd get along with Negatives - but what did the title even mean? Music by Basil Kirchin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Peter Medak  (1937 - )

Variable Hungarian-born director who alternates between the big screen and the small screen. Arthouse hits like Negatives, satire The Ruling Class and A Day in the Death of Joe Egg gave way to comedy - Zorro: The Gay Blade - and classy horror - The Changeling. In the nineties, he went from gangster movie The Krays to morbid thriller Romeo is Bleeding to over-the-top sci-fi sequel Species II.

 
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