sexuality prompts political allegiance to another country
Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby are the most notorious 'known' spies in British history. This film adaptation by Julian Mitchell of his acclaimed stage play speculates on the University life of spy ring member Guy Bennett on screen / Guy Burgess in reality and his political allegiance to another country. And yet it is more than its remit, given woven between the élite tapestry of the piece, Mitchell attempts to explain why one such member would come to turn his back on his own class and very country.
In this instance, the case would seemingly stem from falling out of favour with the establishment over an indiscreet homosexual relationship. Life however is rarely that simple and in reality it could well be argued, that many at this time were appalled by the sheer indifference by the state to the plight of the poor and the unemployed and as a result, whether rightly or wrongly, turned to the Communist ideal to address their concerns. That the Cambridge Spies never concealed their political
affiliations whilst at University is not in doubt. Yet such open declarations of support for Communism would ultimately lead to acts of treason and escape
for some from the law, through defection to Russia.
That said, thankfully and by large the essence of the play hereby remains intact, this inspite of the cinematic outing including both a new beginning and conclusion in order to help 'an international audience' understand 'the context of the film' better. Whilst both versions are recommended, it is this specific one that set its openly out star on the road to Hollywood fame and fortune and one that was to see Rupert Everett portray a series of straight and gay roles thereafter, productions that would include working alongside Kanievska again on the 2004 piece A Different Loyalty; namely a film loosely based around the life of fellow Cambridge spy Donald Maclean.
Only such is the fascination with this notorious chapter in British political history, that all or part of it would come to be retold time and time again. This includes the noted 2003 BBC production Cambridge Spies that perfectly told the story of how four men bonded by friendship and political ideology, would come to betray their country. And yet and as this work so aptly demonstrates, the ultimate irony would remain that in wanting to change the society of their native homeland for the better, all would end up political outcasts of the country they loved so much.
To that end and whilst Cary Elwes is excellent in the role of Bennett's handsome lover Harcourt, a character mentioned but not seen in the theatrical version, this is but a Rupert Everett / Colin Firth double act, magnificent as they are in their respective roles of Guy Bennett and Tommy Judd. Then again, this should be of no surprise, given both had as Bennett starred in the original play, along with Kenneth Branagh who originated the part of Judd and who went on to receive the 1982 Society of West End Theatre award for the Most Promising Newcomer, in a work that is as perceptive today, as the day it was first staged.
available on DVD as part of the 4dvd catalogue
starring: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Michael Jenn, Robert Addie, Rupert Wainwright, Tristan Oliver, Cary Elwes,
Frederick Alexander, Adrian Ross-Magenty, Geoffrey Bateman, Philip Dupuy, Guy Henry,
Jeffrey Wickham, John Line, Gideon Boulting, Anna Massey, Betsy Brantley