Looking Back at Four Seasons of The Crown and Timothy Everest
The English Country House On Film
Based on the classic novel by Shirley Jackson, the action of The Haunting unfolds within the shadows of Hill House, a mid-Victorian monstrosity in the depths of rural Massachusetts. In reality, exterior filming took place in Warwickshire, where the Neo-Gothic contortions of Ettington Park speak to the emotional and psychological vulnerabilities of those summoned to investigate a range of increasingly menacing supernatural phenomena. Julie Harris delivers the performance of a lifetime as the fragile Eleanor Vance. Look out for Claire Bloom’s cutting edge wardrobe by British designer Mary Quant.
Starring: Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Edward Fox, Dominic Guard
Joseph Losey’s faultless adaptation of L.P. Hartley’s classic novel charts the gradual awakening, followed by the cruel disillusionment, of a late Victorian schoolboy (Guard) on an extended visit to the country estate of a much richer friend. There, he becomes embroiled in a cross-class liaison between the daughter of the house (Christie) and a tenant farmer (Bates). The trailing skirts, fluttering parasols and shady hats of 1900 show to perfection against the arid landscape of North Norfolk at the height of a scorching summer. A beautifully filmed cricket match reflects the simmering social and sexual tensions.
‘Heritage Cinema’ doesn’t come any more opaque than The Draughtsman’s Contract. Filmed at Groombridge Place, a moated manor built in 1662 (allegedly with input from Sir Christopher Wren), it’s an unorthodox take on the murder mystery that invites its viewers to collect cunningly planted clues to solve the crime for themselves. Set in the reign of William and Mary, the overblown Baroque aesthetic is as much a product of the early 1980s as the early 1690s. Michael Nyman’s pumping soundtrack – think Purcell with a synthesiser – ranks alongside Geoffrey Burgon’s Brideshead theme as the best music ever to have been inspired by an English country house.
No film has distilled the beauty and sorrow of the English country house in the twentieth century quite like Merchant Ivory’s superlative adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker Prize winning novel. Shot largely at Dyrham Park, but also at Badminton and Powderham Castle, it traces with heartrending subtlety an impeccable butler’s late career realisation that the aristocratic employer to whom he devoted the better part of his personal and professional lives may not have justified his trust after all. An abortive romance with housekeeper Miss Kenton stands for all the passions consumed upon the pyre of misplaced duty.