Director Joseph Losey started working with the playwright Harold Pinter in the 60s, they worked on three classic films together ending with The Go-Between in 1971. Based on the 1953 novel by L.P Hartley, the film features Julie Christie (as Marian), Alan Bates (as Tom Burgess), Edward Fox (as Hugh) and Dominic Guard as the young Leo. Set during the sweltering Norfolk summer of 1900, Marian is to be engaged to Hugh, a well-bred viscount, an exact match or so it would seem. Marian’s younger brother, Marcus (Richard Gibson), invites his classmate Leo to stay at the grand house for the holiday. Following Marian’s kindness towards Leo, he becomes quite besotted with her and they form a friendship. Leo unwittingly becomes the messenger, the ‘Mercury’, in the forbidden romance between Marian and the local farmer Ted Burgess, an inappropriate suitor indeed. (I’ve only watched this once and yet I’m compelled to start talking like the characters.)
As the Norfolk heat intensifies so too do Leo’s feelings and confusion with love, adolescence and the upper class world that he doesn’t really fit in with. I loved the subtle humour in this film, particularly from the character of Denys (played by Simon Hume-Kendall), an underrated comedy hero in the making. The Enid Blyton-esque language had me smiling; “ripping!” and “hard cheese!” made me think of Five Go Mad in Dorset (Comic Strip Presents) briefly. We get an expensive window here into the English class system, the ‘upstairs, downstairs’ worlds colliding but it’s very discreet and set in the background whilst the lords and ladies of the house take centre stage. The character of Ted Burgess as alarmingly different to the others is well done, Alan Bates plays him with stature and grace, a sensitive untamed man. When playing a cricket match with the men of the manor, Ted proves himself to be quite the batter; “he’s terribly savage” cries one of the lady onlookers. Director Losey’s choice of using character’s voices over the top of certain scenes is effective and very modern for the time, it keeps you hooked throughout. The intensity of Leo’s feelings is an integral part of the story and you really sympathise with the poor blighter (I’m doing it again!). I didn’t second guess the twist in the films ending at all as it was brilliantly done; “the past is a foreign country” after all. As well as being a captivating romance, a story of friendship, awakenings, The Go-Between also captures the beauty of an English Edwardian summer. The film was acknowledged by author Ian McEwan as a strong inspiration for his modern classic, Atonement. This is a stunning restored version of a British classic, it won the Grand Prix at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival and it still stands out today. Losey said the making of the film was one of the most happy in his career.
For the 2019 restoration of the film, STUDIOCANAL returned to the original camera negative where possible. These elements were then scanned at 4K resolution in 16bit. The project involved over 200 hours of manual frame by frame fixes and resulted in a new 4k DCP, a new HD version – both produced with the same high technological standards as today’s biggest international film releases.
The Go-Between 4k restoration is available on September 16th to own on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download complete with brand new extras. Special Edition DVD and Blu-Ray packages will include an exclusive booklet and set of cards.
Reviewed by Jo Overfield