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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.Read more ›
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As the story opens, a British traitor is talking about the beginnings of his rebellion at a posh public school in the 1930s. In a flashback, we follow classmates Guy and Tommy (Rupert Everett and Colin Firth); Guy is struggling with hiding his homosexuality and Tommy is a budding Marxist.
This fictionalized story of infamous spy Guy Burgess' youth is a fascinating look at that very British institution, the public school with its young aristocrats luxuriating in their privileged lives. Though the movie moves very slowly and has little action, I still enjoyed the ambiance and the gorgeous scenery in and around Oxford. Everett and Firth are amazingly young and give excellent performances. It is interesting to note a youthful Earl Spencer playing one of the students (good job!) and some filming was even done at Althorp, the Spencer home.
On the downside, the story fails to fully explain why Guy became a Russian spy and his "old man" hair and make-up are truly ridiculous, but I still recommend the movie as an enjoyable look at traditional school life. 3.5 stars.
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I will not be purchasing another DVD here. I was looking forward to watching this but much to my surprise it did not work. Why? It came from the UK and DVD's from there DO NOT work in North America. Nice.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
103 of 109 people found the following review helpful
Political and romantic idealism with content and poetrySept. 12 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
I first saw 'Another Country' on the big screen in 1984. I was thirty and still an idealist and romantic. 'Another country' allows one the opportunity to bathe and flutter in all the glory of one's youth and youthful expectations. The film is not so much about straight vs. gay but, rather, about the traditionalist/conformist vs. the out of the box thinking of 'commies and queers'. It clearly draws the line between those who desire to march to the music of the masses, those who love to cloak themselves in mindless ritual and tradition, honors and awards, the applause and approval of those who can best serve their endless, though limited, ambitions and expectations vs. those who see the utter waste and stupidity and vulgarity of being part of the herd, those who think and question and act with an understanding beyond the politics and drama of the 'norm'.
'Another Country' holds up twenty years later. Rupert Everett embodies the grace of the upper class, the intelligence of the radical, and the poetry of the true romantic. 'Another Country' is filmed in the English tradition of good taste and endless esthetics, in the same way as "A Room With A View,' 'Maurice,' and 'Passage To India'. Idealism and romance are not the stuff of reality, but of the heart and mind and soul. It is important to be warmed and inspired and desired within the universe of the self, and 'Another Country' does that for me. Highly, highly recommended.
70 of 75 people found the following review helpful
The Etiology of RebellionSept. 13 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
In 1983 Julian Mitchell wrote a play based on fact about a young man (Guy Bennett) who, seeing the constraints of British society circa 1930, embraces his sexuality in a time when even the words were criminal, sees through the sad folly of the British class and empire system, and eventually abandons England to become a spy for Russia. The played starred a young 21-year-old Rupert Everett and a 20-year-old Kenneth Branagh as Guy's heterosexual roommate Tommy Judd, an obsessed Marxist as ready to leap out of the norm of British society as Guy - but for different reasons. Director Marek Kanievska adapted Mitchell's challenging play for the screen, and in 1984 ANOTHER COUNTRY became a sterling recreation of the play and a controversial film introducing the extraordinarily talented and continuingly popular Rupert Everett (who remains one of the few 'out' actors enjoying success in Hollywood). Colin Firth assumed the role of Tommy and Cary Elwes became the gay love interest for Everett's Guy Bennett. The film is one of the finest examinations of the rigid, archaically proper British schools for young men (Eton) where class is paramount in importance, rank reigns, and medieval views of sexuality and out of line thought are treated with public corporal punishment and (worst of all!) the inability to rise in the ranks of the 'important' lads. Throughout the film there is a powerful parallel between Guy's striving to become the head of the class being thwarted by his pursuing is passion for his love of men, and the 'religious zeal' approach of Tommy's absorption in Marxism, seeing Communism as the only way to correct the 'vile sickness' of current British politics and social strata. The undercurrents of bigotry are brought into focus when a fine young lad (Martineau) is caught in a sexual act with one of his classmates and is shamed into hanging himself. And when Guy's sexual tryst with James Harcourt is 'discovered', Guy is beaten in front of his compatriots, prompting him to see (with Tommy in agreement) the dead-end of British society and leave the remnants of a once glorious empire behind.
As a delightful Special Feature on this very well made DVD there is a scene from the stage production in the year prior to the film, and the dialogue between Rupert Everett and Kenneth Branagh is incisive and brilliant. This film is a masterpiece, not only in the screenplay, but also in the sensitive direction, the exquisite cinematography, and the amazingly superb acting of not only Everett and Firth, but of the entire large cast. An absolutely brilliant film.
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
The Themes Are Still Relevant TodayMay 18 2005
C. stacy Beam
- Published on Amazon.com
I have been a fan of this film for a long time and was glad to see it released on DVD.
This story is loosely based on the real life of a British aristocrat turned spy for Russia. Instead of detailing the main character's (Guy Bennett)adult transformation from British upper class citizen to traitor, we are treated to a more subtle story of what led the young Bennett to become disenfranchised with his British high class status and how his formative years at the prestigious Eton College, laid the foundation for his ultimate treachery.
The story is told by an elderly Guy Bennet in his Russian flat as he is speaking to a British reporter about his decision to turn against his native England and become a spy for Russia. He explains to the reporter that in order to understand his decision, one must understand the constrained up-bringing of upper class British youth, which he then goes on to recount.
The film is set against the beautiful backdrop of Eton College, the school where not only the british upper class sends their sons, but also the British royals. The cinematography is outstanding, as is the musical score- both are dark and brooding but capture both the beauty and tradition of 1930's England.
The tension in the movie is between Guy's need to be honest about his sexuality while also fitting in with the ultra-conformist status quo represented by the school's elite ruling class boys, the 'Gods'. Guy Bennet yearns to be part of the school's elite group, all the while bucking the traditional structure by mocking the rules, maintaining a friendship with his Marxist roommate and taking part in an illicit love affair with another boy.
As we watch 16 year-old Guy Bennett struggle with his sexuality and his desire to be part of a class and social structure that ultimately rejects him, it is notable that there is a sort of "Lord of the Flies" aspect to the film- there are no adults (save in the first scene when a Master (professor) walks in on two boys engaging in an intimate act) but instead, the school appears to be run in a strict and hierarchical manner by the school children themselves. The group, the "Gods", represent the schools authoritarian and traditional elements and are responsible for punishing those that question authority or violate the school rules in any way. The prestige of 'the Gods' is symbolized by their unique waistcoats, which only they can wear. In all other respects, all of the students at the school are required to dress the same and for all intents and purposes, act the same.
Despite his non-conforming ways, Guy Bennett longs to be part of this ruling elite, saying "just wait, my waistcoats are going to be the most *different* you've ever seen" with his Marxist friend Judd, questioning why he would even want to be part of such a self-serving elitist group anyway. Guy doesn't answer the question, but as his character develops, it is clear that Guy is in love with the superficial trappings of success and privilege. In fact, in many ways, Guy Bennett is a difficult character to like but his brains, sense of humor and emotional attachment to his friend Judd and his lover Harcourt, seem to redeem him.
Though it is tempting to write off this film as a touching, and at times disturbing, look at a long gone era, the themes present in the movie are still relevant today. There is still a tension between those who conform and those who don't. Class status continues to play an important role in who and what we become and the experiences of our childhood often shape us in ways we don't realize until much later in our lives. While we may think that groups such as 'The Gods' no longer exist, think of the two Presidential candidates in the 2004 US election- both were men of money and privilege who were schooled at prestigious prep schools and went on to join the elite, secretive society 'Skull and Bones'. Is that so different from Guy Bennett's 1930's world where the sons of wealth vied for positions in the schools most elite group, 'the Gods' (minus the waistcoats and top hats), only to later become the ruling elite in British government and society? That perhaps is debatable, but it is difficult to watch the film and see the underlying symbolism, themes and struggles as remnants of a by-gone era.
I would highly recommend this DVD to anyone interested in good story-telling, beautiful cinematography and British political history.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
An enjoyable film with substanceJan. 31 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
Another country, was an enjoyable film. The storyline was enough to draw me in and keep me watching. The acting quality was exceptional and the production quality was top quality. The story is one of acceptance between outcasts and the effects of rejection from the snobish upperclass of the time. It is set around 1930 in England. Rupert Everett plays the lead and did an outstanding job. Because of the vintage setting the film has little profanity by todays standard and not much in the way of nudity. The storty is well written. This is a good addition to my collection and was an excellent investment. It's clean enough for the conservitive, gay friendly folks and most who watch will find that they relate to the story on some level. We have all felt like outcasts at one time or the other in our lives. I'm sure You will enjoy this film.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A little local issueMay 18 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
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.