The End of the Affair
“This is a diary of hate,” pounds out novelist Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes) on his typewriter as he recounts the lost love of his life in this spiritual memoir (based on Graham Greene’s novel) with a startling twist. It’s London 1946, and Maurice runs into his achingly dull school friend Henry (Stephen Rea with a perpetually gloomy hangdog expression). Their meeting is brittle, all small talk and chilly, mannered civility beautifully captured by director-screenwriter Neil Jordan (The Crying Game), and it only barely thaws when Henry suggests that his…
“This is a diary of hate,” pounds out novelist Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes) on his typewriter as he recounts the lost love of his life in this spiritual memoir (based on Graham Greene’s novel) with a startling twist. It’s London 1946, and Maurice runs into his achingly dull school friend Henry (Stephen Rea with a perpetually gloomy hangdog expression). Their meeting is brittle, all small talk and chilly, mannered civility beautifully captured by director-screenwriter Neil Jordan (The Crying Game), and it only barely thaws when Henry suggests that his wife, Sarah (the luminous Julianne Moore), may be having an affair. Maurice’s mind reels back to his passionate affair with Sarah during the war years, which she abruptly broke off two years ago. Gripped with a jealousy that hasn’t abated, he hires a private detective (a mousy, marvelous Ian Hart) to shadow her movements. He prepares himself for the revelation of a rival but instead finds a deeper, more profound secret: “I tempted fate,” she writes in her diary, “and fate accepted.”
Jordan’s cool remove captures the unease beneath formal manners but never warms into intimacy during the scenes between the lovers, even while Fiennes and Moore almost explode in repressed emotions, their faces cracking under their masks of civility and their resolve shaking through jittery body language. There’s more thought than feeling behind this collision of passion and spirituality, but it’s a sincere, richly realized portrait of ennui and rage against God energized by brief moments of shattering drama. —Sean Axmaker
It’s entirely fitting that The End of the Affair plays out in a 1940s London that’s either blacked-out during the Blitz or wreathed in a pea-souper during the post-war period. After all, Neil Jordan’s movie is a mystery play in the guise of a love-story, and its interior is a fog of conjecture and misunderstanding. Only at the end does the mist clear away and we see things in stark clarity.
Based on Graham Greene’s most autobiographical novel, The End of the Affair offers an autopsy of the adulterous love affair between glacial Sarah Miles (Oscar-nominated Julianne Moore) and intense writer Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes). Out on the sidelines, Ian Hart proves convincingly twitchy as a working-class private eye, while Jordan regular Stephen Rea (as the cuckolded husband) mooches about with a face like November. In the mean-time, the movie circles deliberately around its central bone of contention: the bomb blast that spared Maurice’s life but brought his relationship with Sarah to its sudden, inexplicable end.
Unfortunately, The End of the Affair winds up something of a mixed bag. If anything, Jordan is almost too respectful of Greene’s source material: toiling lovingly on the intricacies of his story (its shabby London settings, its clash of profane love with redemptive Catholicism) while leaving the drama idling. The result is a film you’ll probably admire rather than love. Its chill ambience dampens down the passion. —Xan Brooks
Barnes and Noble
Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan has a sensuous fascination with the darker impulses that drive human behavior. His rain-swept adaptation of Graham Greene’s semiautobiographical novel, The End of the Affair, explores an adulterous love affair set in smoldering relief against the devastation of war-torn London in the 1940s. Ralph Fiennes stars as a brooding novelist obsessively in love with his neighbor’s wife (Julianne Moore). Moore’s understated performance garnered her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, and the dynamic Stephen Rea (The Crying Game, Interview With a Vampire) is also extraordinary as her cuckolded civil servant husband. True to Greene’s book, the characters speak in dialogue layered with irony, and the sex scenes are provocatively restrained. The affair evolves in an elegant series of flashbacks within flashbacks, with Fiennes’s character narrating in voice-over a tale that is a meditation on loss, misunderstanding, and the horrendous twists of fate that call the very nature of faith into question. Virginia McCollam
Brooding, modern, and introspective, Michael Nyman’s score for Neil Jordan’s screen adaptation of Graham Greene’s dark, postwar drama largely eschews melodic accessibility and convention. Instead, much as frequent David Cronenberg collaborator Howard Shore (and the great Bernard Herrmann before them), Nyman utilizes subtly shifting minimalist motifs (played by his namesake string and wind ensemble) to underscore the film’s moods and amplify its drama. Though the result may not be memorable from a traditional melodic sense, many will find it an emotionally…
“This is a record of hate far more than of love,” writes Maurice Bendrix in the opening passages of The End of the Affair. And it is a strange hate indeed that compels him to set down the retrospective account of his adulterous affair with Sarah Miles—a hate bred of a passion that ultimately lost out to God. Now, a year after Sarah’s death, Bendrix seeks to exorcise the persistence of that passion by retracing its course from obsessive love to lovehate. At the start he believes he hates Sarah and her husband, Henry. By the end of the book, Bendrix’s hatred has shifted to the God he feels has broken his life but whose existence he has at last come to recognize.
Originally published in 1951, The End of the Affair was acclaimed by William Faulkner as “for me one of the best, most true and moving novels of my time, in anybody’s language.”