Betrayal (1983) and other Literary Adaptations
Part of a series on the films of Jeremy Irons
Throughout the early oeuvre of Jeremy Irons, we see a theme: prestige literary adaptations. After adaptations like Brideshead Revisited and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Irons continued this trend in 1983-4 in Betrayal (a Harold Pinter adaptation), Swann in Love (a Marcel Proust adaptation), and The Wild Duck (a Henrik Ibsen adaptation). Each film is difficult to find on DVD, smaller pictures largely forgotten. While I couldn’t find copies of Swann in Love or The Wild Duck, I was able to get a copy of Betrayal, a digital copy of a VHS rip from when it was broadcasted on the BBC. That’s how obscure this picture is.
I am incredibly glad to find a copy of this film, because Betrayal is downright electric. It stars Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley, and Patricia Hodge as a group of friends whose entwining extramarital affairs are examined in reverse chronology. As an adaptation of a play, the film isn’t very visually stimulating (most scenes are just of two people within a room), but the material is more than strong enough to carry the film. Kingsley in particular is stellar and downright jaw dropping, perhaps aiding by the fact that his post-2000 career hasn’t been as prestigious as what came before. Irons’ performance is of a man who is always one step behind, and although he plays a literary agent, he normal air of sophistication isn’t at play here.
The film is only 90 minutes long, but it goes incredibly fast, and is always riveting. If you can find a copy, do watch it. You’ll wonder where the time went.