Based on the novel by Robin Maugham adapted on screen by Harold Pinter, ‘The Servant’ is quite an amalgamation of sardonic analysis reversing the class, sex and power relationship of its four central characters. Though it’s drama, director Joseph Losey brought to screen an unsettling thrill showing us role reversal of power with unease. A young upper class bachelor Tony (James Fox in his debut) hires a manservant named Barret (Dirk Bogarde), who initially creates bonding with his Master arranging the house and manages to be a reliable man of his life. The tension starts rolling with entry of two dames in the house. The first is his Master’s dame who sniffs suspicion in Barret and the other is Barret’s pretentious sister, a part of Barret’s parasitic scheming.
Losey unfolds the whole film with brilliant sense of entrapment slowly extending both the men and their social role reversal with a complex and tacit undertone of homosexuality. The thrilling and unsettling first half shifts the gear in second half with dark and disturbing decay in the house. Dirk Bogarde as Barret is one of the most chilling act with suave and pitch perfect expression. That contemptuous smile flickering on his face is something! Douglas Slocombe’s unsettling B&W camera explores claustrophobic spaces of the house and it certainly reminds me Polanski’s ‘Repulsion’. One can see fine use of mise en scenes, noir effect and aesthetic frames parallel to each other in camerawork. The background score is surely haunting one creating the mood and tone for film like this.