DIR/WRI: Sally Potter • PRO: Kurban Kassam, Christoper Shepard • ED: Emilie Orsini, Ander Refn • CAST: Kristen Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Cillian Murphy
A party is usually a positive thing. An occasion where people come together to be a little more jolly in each other’s company until they return to their everyday lives, hopefully a little more cheerful. Mostly a party does not result in that much drama, maybe someone drinks a little too much or perhaps someone lets out an opinion they wouldn’t express while sober. Generally nothing happens which cannot be reconciled in the morning. Sally Potter’s The Party however is not this kind of party. In place of a little social occasion with uninspiring canapés, the party in this film is a never ending spool of cataclysmic events.
The central character Janet played by Kristen Scott Thomas perfectly embodies the humble and hardworking politician. Obviously she feels it is only right to celebrate her newly found success as health minister by donning an apron and rustling up some vol-au-vents for her nearest and dearest. The potential for bourgeois banality this could evoke is eliminated by the opening shot of Janet in a frenzy standing at her front door and shakily pointing a gun. We instantly know something is going to go awry. After this shocking opening, we return to the normality of Janet in the Kitchen getting on with her party prep. Janet’s ability to answer her incessantly ringing phone calms the viewer into normality. How could anything go wrong? This woman is in demand and in control. She knows exactly what to say and do and how to act. However, it is the eerie stillness of her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) that makes the viewer feel on edge. Not only does he appear to be completely disengaged and unemotional about the triumph of his wife, his mind seems completely detached from any kind of reality. Bills lack of communication and movement represents the calm before the storm that is about to unfold.
A plethora of party guests drip in one after the other and a storm ensues. Many aspects of this film have a theatrical essence, rarely is a film made that could equally translate as a piece of theatre. This provides the film with a sparky in the moment energy. Shot in black and white, the events never go beyond four different rooms, the confined space making the character clash even more. The arrival of each party guest brings a new wave of commotion to the house. No opinions are spared, no issues are left unaired. To a certain degree, this film represents that no matter what your social class, wage or position, it is not always possible to remain dignified when you see what is important to you slipping away.
The character of April( Patricia Clarkson) undercuts every characters rage, joy and statement. She proclaims herself as a cynic, openly congratulating her friend on her success while denying the effectiveness of party politics. Also more amusingly she is blatantly disdainful of her hippie/ spiritual husband Gottfried(Bruno Ganz).While her character may seem like a refreshing taste of honesty, a champion at killing off social niceties, April actually provides something much more pivotal to the plot. While, The Party could simply be viewed as an insight into middle class havoc, it actually digs a lot deeper than that. Essentially this film deconstructs certain idealisms we all define ourselves by. The dismissed newly pregnant Jinny get her domestic ideals crushed when her wife will not rejoice with her. Tom (Cillian Murphy) shows that money is no protection against happiness. The numerous infidelities and martial dissatisfactions present in the film give no hope for the institution of love. April by contrast is cynical enough to remain unaffected by anything as she already knows there is nothing true enough to depend on.
Is the overall message of The Party to abort idealism altogether? Whether this is true or not The Party is a highly entertaining and sharp piece of theatrical cinema, which will engage audiences from start to finish.
15A (See IFCO for details)
The Party is released 13th October 2017