11 April 2011 | st-shot
Accident keeps its distance.
Late one evening in the English countryside two inebriated students on their way to visit Stephen (Dirk Bogarde) an Oxford professor who has been tutoring both, crash the car they are in killing the male ( Michael York). Stephen pulls Anna (Jaqueline Sassard)from the wreck and then possibly covers up for her part. The story then moves backwards in objective and dispassionate detail that first brings them and others together before the climax returns you with a group of facts to assess your own feelings about each character as the film plays itself out.
Accident is one cold and remote study of human behavior even for English academia. Director Joseph Losey and writer Harold Pinter erase any hints of compassion and understanding while ironically rendering men of vast knowledge non communicative to intimates as they try to come to terms with their own repressed desires. Bogarde is tailor maid to play Stephen. Defrosting little from his character in The Servant created by the same team he remains in a perpetual dark night of the soul even during moments of bliss. Fellow prof Charley ( Stanley Baker) is more nuanced and well played against type by Baker, even more deluded in his mid life crisis. The two have some excellent scenes together as Pinter's script and Losey's long takes build suspense fully but sometimes misleadingly. Vivien Merchant provides her usual laid back style of deceptive power while Michael York exudes youth and life with Jaquelline Sassard beautiful and comatose. There's also an excellent cameo by Harold Knox as a senior provost foreshadowing Stephen's future, who has to be reminded of his daughter's name. It's an almost soul less existence with all emotion cut off.
Accident reflects its title perfectly and in doing so makes it impossible for you not to look away. It is a challenging, exasperating and for some rewarding experience.