'Affair' puts passion amid war
In the film "The End of the Affair," writer-director Neil Jordan dramatizes the movie's themes with an inevitable conclusion implied by the title.
Based on a Graham Greene novel, the film centers around a romance between Sarah Miles (Julianne Moore), wife of colossal bore Henry (Stephen Rea), and novelist Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes).
Set amid the World War II bombings of London, the affair begins quickly and forcefully, preparing for a collision between love, danger, death and passion.
In Maurice, Sarah finds everything she wants - characteristics that Henry does not attain. Their lovemaking is passionate and charged with the thrill of illicit love.
As two highly regarded actors, Fiennes and especially Moore portray the passion of the affair, as well as the agonizing end of the relationship. The love between Sarah and Maurice is most believable and poignant when no words pass between the lovers - leaving only the raw essence of their attraction.
Fiennes and Moore display their skills most evidently in a crucial scene, when a bomb hits their love nest, nearly killing Maurice and forever altering the nature of the relationship. Both respond differently to the disaster, marking the moment when their paths diverge.
Jordan repeats the bombing scene many times throughout the film, each time the audience is asked to reconsider their original perception of the event.
Sarah, Maurice and Henry are all flawed. Sarah struggles with her ability to uphold her promises. Although Henry is aware that he is a bad husband, he cannot change himself.
Maurice often fulfills the role of the film's antagonist. His jealousy, ruthless atheism and temper cause problems for the affair and for the audience's ability to find him appealing. His behavior is understandable because the three are living under the certainty of an end.
They are powerless to alter their fate, and this impotence provides the film's drama.
The film's final scene retains a shred of hope - the chance for life beyond the end. It comes in the form of a miracle, performed by Sarah, which is a testament to the love she embodied at the end of her life.
After she reunites with Maurice, Sarah falls ill. Following her illness a unique relationship among the three characters unfolds, each bound to the others by fate. They need each other, with Sarah's death a strong union is formed - one that will last beyond the end.
"Affair" never betrays its own themes or characters, and there is no hint of Hollywood tinkering.
Each detail serves the narrative, whether it is the costume design or set design. The low-lit environment makes a home to love, hate and jealousy. This film is really about the strength of emotions behind an affair, about loyalty and devotion, about the need to let one's heart be a guide in life.
The film dabbles in the tragedy of disillusion, exploring how a person acts foolishly when lacking a true understanding of the whole picture.