Rated R - Running Time: 1:49 - Released 12/3/99

After his Oscar-nominated part in The English Patient, Ralph Fiennes seems the perfect choice for the male lead in Neil Jordan's remake of Edward Dmytryk's 1955 film The End Of The Affair. Jordan's screen adaptation of the autobiographical novel by now deceased author Graham Greene is so similar to Patient in style, tone, and setting, the said part is almost interchangeable, as is Fiennes's performance. But it's still heartfelt, as is that of his co-star, Julianne Moore, who has received an Oscar nomination for her work. The film is a richly accoutered World War II drama about the illicit affair between a writer and the wife of his best friend, involving not only the emotional dynamic of such an uncomfortable situation, but the effects of one's choices regarding the existence of God, and the ironic impact of an event seen from two different points of view.

Author Maurice Bendrix (Fiennes) is continually aware of the little accidents of fate one encounters in life. "Writers notice everything," he says. This is brought up by his chance meeting with an old friend, Henry Miles (Stephen Rea) in 1946, two years after his affair with Henry's wife Sarah (Moore). Although Henry is unaware of the previous dalliance, he confides to Maurice that he now suspects Sarah of infidelity. After the two men chat a while, Henry dismisses the idea and is ashamed of his distrust, but Maurice's obsession with his former lover is resurrected. He decides to hire a private investigator (Ian Hart) to follow Sarah and find out what he can. Among the dark secrets he probes is the reason she was forced to cut off their passionate relationship.

This film is a deep study into the many facets of the human condition, whether they be unconditional love, blinding jealousy, the dependence on a supreme being, or the frailty of the body. It's beautifully filmed, with rain constantly pelting the subjects' present just as the German bombs pelted their past. The irony of the bombings is a clever twist; the preference of love over life is demonstrated on several occasions. The slow pace and dark appearance set the mood, but as a result the film drags almost to a standstill at times. Still, beautiful scenery (Roger Pratt's cinematography has also been nominated) and fine work by its leading players keep it near the top of the list of 1999's best films. ****½

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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