3 September 2005 | jotix100
Patrick McGrath's novel has been faithfully translated to the screen by Patrick Marber, and directed with great care by David Mackenzie. The film's basic idea is to what extent a woman can go when falling passionately in love with a mad man. Mr. Mackenzie seems to be in complete control, as he takes us for this somewhat erotic ride to show us what makes Stella lose her mind. If you haven't seen the film, maybe you should stop reading here.
The action takes place in the England of the fifties. The look of the film fits perfectly with the story thanks to that faded photography Jules Nuttgens created for the movie. The Raphael family arrives at an insane asylum where he has been hired for an important position. As such, Max must attend to everything because he looks as though he will inherit the director's job. Stella, his wife, is another story. She is bored with the surroundings and with her marriage. There is nothing between Max and Stella in a way of passion.
When Edgar, one of the inmates that is somewhat freer around the institution, is assigned to help restore the green house that belongs to the house the Raphaels occupy, he immediately develops an attraction toward Stella. This young woman is awakened into a sexual frenzy because the way that Edgar makes her feel, something that appears is lacking in her own marriage.
The problem is compounded when Peter Cleave, the ambitious doctor who appears to have been bypassed in favor of Max, realizes what's going on between the two lovers, but it's too late for Stella to react, or change ways, she has already been smitten by something that is more powerful than her own resolve to stay away from the mad Edgar. In a way, there's a hint of homosexuality, in that Cleave might also have feelings for the insane man, but being in control, he can rein his own impulses.
Mr. Mackenzie gets excellent acting from all the principals in the film, especially Natasha Richarson, who as Stella, is perfect for this role. Ian McEwen, the distinguished English actor, makes a great Petere Cleave. The surprise of "Asylum" proves to be Marton Csokas, who plays Edgar. Hugh Bonneville, as the cuckolded husband Max, is also quite effective. Judy Parfitt, Joss Ackland and Gus Lewis are seen in supporting roles.
Mr. Mackenzie has directed with great style as he seems to understand these characters well.