Its lush visuals concealing a core of fetid malevolence, Schrader's film of Ian McEwan's novel inhabits a strange, unsettling territory somewhere between art movie and thriller. Colin (Everett) and Mary (Richardson) are second-honeymooning in Venice, warily striving to repair the fissures in their stale relationship. A seemingly fortuitous encounter with the aristocratic Robert (Walken) bemuses them, his evident hospitality sitting uneasily with his unusually frank questions and confessions. But the suave tale-spinner also catalyses what remains of the couple's sexual feelings for each other, and as if mesmerised, they return to the palazzo he shares with his submissive wife (Mirren), only half oblivious to the dangers awaiting them... Adopting an oblique perspective on motivation, Harold Pinter's script sometimes suffers from awkward, even implausible dialogue; but careful pacing and casting make for a film that, while directed with cool discretion, is sensual and shocking in its casual evocation of erotic violence, emotional manipulation and moral torpor. If much of the credit must go to cameraman Dante Spinotti's use of dense, exotic colours and to Gianni Quaranta's elegant sets, it's finally Schrader who deserves praise for the septic, stifling mood.
Cast and crew