“Accident” is a 1967 drama film, directed by Joseph Losey (“Modesty Blaise”). The screenplay, based on the 1965 novel by Nicholas Mosley, was written by Harold Pinter.
The film opens with a long shot of an English country home, accompanied by the sounds of a car approaching at speed and crashing. The home’s owner, Oxford professor Stephen (Dirk Bogarde – “Doctor In Distress”, “The Night Porter”) rushes out to discover two of his students, William and his fiancée Anna, in the upturned car.
William (Michael York – “Logan’s Run, “Austin Powers”) is killed outright, but Stephen is able to rescue the dazed and uncommunicative Anna (Jacqueline Sassard – “Les Biches”, “Guendalina”) and take her back to his house, where he calls the police.
We are then transported back in time to when, during a tutorial with Stephen, William first mentions his attraction to Anna. It soon becomes clear that, although he is married to Rosalind (Vivien Merchant – “Alfie”) with two young children and a third on the way, Stephen too is very attracted to Anna.
Stephen invites both William and Anna to his house for the day one weekend, but finds his ulterior motives somewhat compromised when his friend, and professional rival, Charley (Stanley Baker – “Zulu”, “The Guns Of Navarone”) arrives uninvited, also staying for the day. It later transpires that Charley is another who is smitten with the seemingly unaware Anna.
A day filled with subtle competition between Stephen, William and Charley for Anna’s attention then begins, with Rosalind left in the background to prepare lemonade etc.
What follows is an excellent portrayal of the various relationships at play – personal, marital, professional – as they change throughout the long hot English summer, before we arrive back where we started and then discover what happened in the aftermath of the crash.
I thought this was a brilliant, beautifully captured film. This is a movie with lots of space. Visually, there is little in the way of action, everything developing at its own pace. There are lots of lingering camera shots, and lots of lingering looks from the characters, as well as some great cinematography – particularly, I thought, of the countryside.
Aside from the very occasional laid back jazzy incidental music, the only sounds you hear are those of everyday life – clocks, bells, traffic sounds, etc. – and the dialogue, which itself is sparse. So much is conveyed by looks, body language, that a busy script and musical score is not required.
Perhaps not the kind of film I would usually gravitate towards, but an excellent one…