The End of the Affair - rated - SIMMERING

Menage à Quatre

This film is about a love affair between Maurice Bendrix, an author who might be Graham Greene (Ralph Fiennes) and Sarah Miles (Julianne Moore). Sarah is married to Henry (Stephen Rea). But there's an extra person in this relationship - in fact you might say there are three extra persons.

The film is an accomplished, if downbeat, one. Michael Nyman's distinctive music elevates the tone of the film from the moment it begins. I felt myself getting excited at the prospect of something really stylish.

"This is a diary of hate" are the first words of the script. And then all the first few scenes seem to be played out by people passing on staircases. Some critics have said they found the timeframes hard to follow, but I had no problem following the director as he flipped from the present into the past. The art direction of the film is superbly detailed, and not over-glamorised - which is admirably restrained for a film set in World War Two. but then again, this is Britain during the war, and it is raining nearly all the time. Neil Jordan almost goes overboard with the Third Man homage at times. But the ideas are fascinating, the characters are believable, and the actors are wonderful.

Fiennes plays the difficult role of a jealous and arrogant lover, whose love turns ugly very quickly. Julianne Moore is luminous and pitiful at the same time as a woman of principle. Her Britishness is impeccable in every respect. The performance of the ever-reliable Jordan regular Stephen Rea gives new meaning to the term restraint. His performance is the very essence of subtlety. And, in the role of the detective, Mr Parkis, Ian Hart is amazing. He shines in his scenes with Ralph Fiennes. He shows us the simple professionalism of the working man, as starkly contrasted with Fiennes' self-satisfied writer. There's a scene in which Bendrix puts down Parkis by telling him he's named his son after the wrong Knight of the Round table. Fiennes arrogance is chilling, but Hart's character moves us by what he doesn't do rather than by what he does. It's a very still performance among a brace of truly great actors, and he almost steals the glory.

I love the ideas in this film, and I think the script is generally very good (with a few lapses, mostly in Fiennes' lines - he's not entirely believable as a clever novelist on the evidence of his prose. But I love the idea of commissioning an investigation into oneself. I love Bendrix's bitterness and the way the film shows us the fine line between love and hate - almost the sinister side of love: "I measured love by the extent of my jealousy, " Bendrix says, "and my jealousy is infinite. I love the exploration of Fate & Predestination & Divine Omnipotence & the role of Faith. And I love all the misunderstandings in the film. It made me think - is this coincidence or just the way life happens?

The love scenes between Bendrix and Moore are quite steamy, but oddly cool at the same time. I think this is deliberate: the coolness of their love comes from Bendrix's guilt and bitterness.

But most of all I loved the simple inevitability of the ending, and the way that, in the last scenes, Bendrix came to realise that he hated God so much that he had to acknowledge His existence. So God won. And won Bendrix. At last, through the example of Sarah, he learns the true meaning of love. His final prayer: "Forget about me - look after her" proves that.