Another Country, a film starring Rupert Everett and Colin Firth (in their very early work), is set in the upper-class British society of the inter-war period. Its central idea is to demonstrate the difficulties of growing up even in the midst of privilege when one is different. Everett plays Guy Bennett, an intelligent and popular student at a public school (in America, read private school) who doesn't seem to be growing out of `schoolboy tendencies' as are the others. The film is done in a flashback sequence; Bennett is in his old age, reflecting back on the origins of the troubles in his life (as it turns out, Bennett is one of the several British intelligence agents who during the Cold War defected to the Soviet Union). Bennett sees the problems starting in prep schools such as his (Eton is not specifically named, but heavily implied, particularly given the history of the real British intelligence defectors). There is an inability for the culture around to face the truth, and the attempt by the school (instructors, alumni, and fellow students alike) to pressure all into a conformity that doesn't always fit. Bennett wants to be openly gay; his friend Tommy Judd (Firth) wants to be a nonconformist Communist; their nemesis is not from the adult world, but rather the fellow student Fowler, who is in charge of the school's military brigade, and the one most keen on enforcing rules and mores.
This is an interesting film for British audiences because it exposes an unspoken element to the class struggle by looking inside the upper class and seeing division as opposed to monolith and uniformity. It is interesting for American audiences because it exposes a different world from the ones most Americans understand readily, but one not so far removed in terms of influence both politically and culturally. Most interesting is the interplay of the cultural elements, sometimes explicitly critiqued by the character Tommy (who doesn't quite do the Shakespearean aside to the audience, but whose commentary is obviously tailored more for the viewing audience than for the other characters at times); most of the time, however, the cultural elements are assumed and understood as natural by the characters, causing viewers outside the British upper class (and some of those in it) to ponder just what is going on with all of these.
One of the interesting things of the piece is that it is a questioning film, questioning the way society brings up its young, with the questioning being done by the young. However, for young people the ending is unsettling - Guy Bennett is in a small Moscow flat, having defected to the Soviet Union with intelligence secrets, effectively betraying his culture and nation; we discover that Tommy died in the Spanish Civil War fighting against Franco, and many of the other high-flyers in school end up as lack-luster and disappointing figures (even the one who makes it being a Cabinet minister somehow lacks the image of success - when one is trained from birth to take the highest office, is it really much of an achievement to attain it?).
It is a rather slow-moving film in terms of camera shots, and a rather conservative film in terms of cast and action (there are no car chases, no bloody violence, no sex other than hints and suggestions, etc.). It is one that has never made much of an impact on American audiences, and the British audiences who enjoyed the film were predominantly an older crowd.
The issues of metaphor, iconic imagery and modern society's method of making sense of imagery abound here. In particular, there is Baudrillard's idea of simulation - in a sense, the film Another Country is a simulation of a simulation: the film itself is a simulation of a sort, and the characters and school environment depicted are also a simulation of certain relationships and aspects that the world should, in the eyes of the community at large, take on even if it never really achieves the fullness (and indeed, would be unlikely to like the results if it should). This taps into the concept of hegemony drawn from critical analysis thinkers such as Gramsci and Williams.
The world in the film Another Country no longer exists. Of course, the world in Another Country never really existed, but was a cultural construct for the particular class. God rarely entered into the matter, apart from standard prayers at meal-times, awkward impromptu Bible study when something `immoral' had happened, and at times of personal or national crisis.
Stylish, well-acted, interesting in scope, this is an under-appreciated gem. Comparison has been made, rightly so, to the lavish Merchant-Ivory productions of E.M. Forster novels around the same time.