Sleuth (2007)

“Sleuth” (2007)




It is reducing to think of this as a remake of the original. Instead it is much richer to consider it as a film which over layers the original. You really should see the first one in order to magnify the experience of this one. Think of the original, than consider it to be merely a starting point. Than open your mind to this one. You do that, and you will be given one of the best film experiences that deal with the creation of stories. I did.

Schaffer/Mankiewicz’s version was about two characters fighting for the control of the storyline. Their personal game of humiliation and revenge was based on each one creating a story and performing it so convincingly that they would fool the other into believing it. In that version we had toys and animated puppets all around the set to enhance this. It was a masterpiece of film writing that worked because the acting supported it. Laurence Olivier was great there because he constantly explained us the creation of the story as we went along. The film was one of pure males, cocks fight. The woman for whom they were fighting, was in a painting.

Here we start on the footsteps of that film. Two thirds of the thing leave no room for wandering about motivations. If you know the original you will know what to expect. This is wonderfully staged. The woman that causes the game IS the house, which she decorated. So we have her playing the game, much more than we had in the original. Branagh is to be reckoned for the mastery of the thing. The way he handles surveillance cameras invents a third character who is all around, whom we never see. The house is, at the same time, ostensibly a set, designed not for someone to live in it, but to be explored by our characters. But it IS also a house! I’ll mark this as an interesting case of a film which relates cinema and architecture, for how the house/set is handled.

**spoilers herein**

The narrative master stroke comes in the last 20 minutes. It’s a special thing which will work with stronger effect because we already have the original film. It’s a kind of twist over what we expect because we saw that other film. Here we feel heavily the hand of Harold Pinter. At a certain point, when our characters are starting the last “set” of their game, we are left undecided oscillating between believing their sincerity or trying to figure who is making the move. The gay theme is introduced, and the play moves to a state of enormous ambiguity, only revealed in the very last minutes. Again, the house (the elevator) provides us a strong last shot, which ends the film in a much more conclusive and effective way than the original. Caine’s character is much more ambiguous, and he is to be credited with his long moments of pure silence in the guest room, as he decides whether to give in to Law’s demands or not. That was great

Jude Law is quite an interesting actor to follow. Besides his obvious qualities, it seems to me he is specially intelligent (or well oriented) in how he chooses the films where he plays. His remakes of Caine’s former roles are good examples of that.

My opinion: 4/5 this is several plays within a play, which becomes a film, framed by other film. You want to watch it.

This comment on IMDb


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