14 August 2010 | rpvanderlinden
Beating Hearts, Wagging Tongues
"Personal Affair" is a crisply written, beautifully photographed, thoughtfully directed thriller about a teenage girl (Glynis Johns) who disappears, one night, from a small town and the schoolteacher (Leo Genn) who is suspected of being implicated in her disappearance. People do notice things and people in the town have noticed that there was something between them. They don't know what, he's an outsider, anyway, so they figure he's guilty. The film is a study of how feverish imagination becomes gossip, and gossip becomes the truth, how suspicion breeds fear and undermines love and trust, how crazy you can become from the whispers and half-truths swirling around you and you don't have a rock to hold onto.
The schoolteacher has a beautiful American wife (Gene Tierney) who loves him deeply but becomes detached from that rock when certain suspicions she has regarding her husband and the girl turn out to have weight. He's innocent of any criminal culpability, but he hasn't quite told the truth, which has something to do with love. The film talks a lot about this tricky emotion. At various points in the film each of the main characters - the teacher, his wife, the girl, her parents, her aunt - bring up the subject of love, and their own experiences with it. It is the aunt who has been damaged by love who harbours all kinds of toxic feelings and spreads the most lies and chaos.
The stage play and screenplay, I note, were both written by one Lesley Storm. The film has been nicely opened up, runs a tight 88 minutes and is very cinematic. Do note that beautiful metaphor at the end of the film - turbulent waters and still waters. Really a lovely little film.