The Betrayal Pinter Film Review
The sly tale of a seven-year extramarital affair involving an art gallery owner and her best friend’s husband plays like a thriller in reverse chronology. Lloyd’s classy production features a superb trio led by Tom Hiddleston and James Cox.
Those famous Pinter pauses brim with subtext as the upper-class cast indulge in their petty grievances. The tidal wave of emotions is played out with tremendous economy.
Robert (Tom Hiddleston)
Tom Hiddleston has been a busy boy since his first appearance on the screen in Joanna Hogg’s 2007 drama Unrelated. He’s starred in a wide range of independent films, working with auteur directors like Jim Jarmusch on The Deep Blue Sea and Guillermo del Toro on Crimson Peak. He’s also worked on the big screen, with starring turns in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse and James Bond film Skyfall.
Pinter explored adultery with a remarkable blend of precision and subtlety in Betrayal, originally staged in 1978 at London’s National Theatre. The play recounts the secret affair between married couple Emma and Jerry, as well as their cuckolded friend Robert. The plot is told in reverse chronological order, with characters lying almost constantly to each other and even themselves.
The key to the play’s success is that all the betrayals are rooted in love. Blythe Danner and Raul Julia both won Tonys for their performances as Emma and Jerry, and the play was adapted for the screen in 1983, directed by David Jones and starring Daniel Craig as Robert, Rachel Weisz as Emma, and Ben Kingsley as Jerry. Hiddleston, who co-starred with Ashton on the Broadway revival of Betrayal, continues to work regularly in film and TV. He’s next set to star in Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller Mother and the forthcoming fantasy adaptation of The Awakening.
Emma (Emma Ashton)
Zawedde Emma Ashton is a British actress, playwright and narrator. She has performed in theaters such as the Anna Scher Theatre School, London, England, and the Royal Court. She has also appeared in television shows like Game-On, In Deep, NCS Manhunt, The Bill, Casualty, Coming Up, and Case Histories. She also took part in the musical The Maids and was a narrator for the movie Velvet Buzzsaw.
During his career, she has done over thirty films and a few TV series. She has collaborated with various theatre companies including the Bush Theatre, Clean Break, and The Royal Court. She has also participated in several theater festivals such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Royal Court’s International Monologues Competition.
In Jamie Lloyd’s eye-popping revival of Harold Pinter’s lean, incisive three-hander Betrayal (which opened September 5 on Broadway), Tom Hiddleston reveals the many facets of his character Robert. He’s capable of great warmth, a dangerous growl, and can shed a vulnerable tear. But he’s also craggily commanding, his presence suggesting that no one who gets caught up in his orbit ever escapes unscathed. He and Ashton, making their Broadway debuts, are matched by Charlie Cox, who plays Jerry, Robert’s longtime friend and best man. Told backward in chronology, the play ruminates on the highs and lows of their tumultuous seven-year relationship.
Jerry (James Cox)
No affair is ever an island built for two. At the least, there’s a third person – the betrayed, usually – and that’s precisely what director Jamie Lloyd focuses on in his savvy Broadway revival of Harold Pinter’s 1978 play, transferring from last spring’s hot-ticket London engagement. This unembellished production – which boasts sharp performances by Tom Hiddleston (Loki in the Marvel franchise), Charlie Cox (Daredevil) and Zawe Ashton (Velvet Buzzsaw) – strips Pinter’s language down to its essence, letting his pauses pulse with unspoken emotion and hidden meaning.
Using reverse chronology, Betrayal follows the significant moments of art gallery owner Emma’s seven-year extramarital relationship with literary agent Jerry. Each sequence reveals new details about their affair as well as the impact of each on their respective marriages. The edgy verbal thrills of the piece are matched by a deep vein of melancholy marbled through all of the drama’s scenes.
While the men ruminate on the highs and lows of their affair, it’s clear that Emma is driving these lives. But it’s also apparent that her own deep hungers are obscured by an ethereal aura that Pinter infuses her with. Lloyd accentuates this, making her seem less visceral and thus less sympathetic. That’s a shame because Ashton is a terrific actress.