The Magic Lantern

Hosted ByEricca Long and Cole Roulain

Exploring the films we love and the things we love about them.

The Magic Lantern: Episode 102 – Betrayal

I first encountered David Jones’ adaptation of Harold Pinter’s play about his extramarital affair, Betrayal (1983), when I was thirteen years old. Those were the heady days of the early cable television boom and my afternoon ritual was to walk to Head’s Grocery, get a Dr Pepper and some Hot Tamales, and then walk to my grandmother’s house to absorb whatever HBO and The Movie Channel had in store for me for a few hours until my parents picked me up on their way home from work. I saw some incredible films that way, including some eternal favorites that we’ve already discussed on the show, like Gregory’s Girl (1980).

Most of my favorites shared one particular characteristic. They were a window into the world of adulthood. Just having entered my teenage years, I was keen to accelerate the process of growing up. Betrayal may be responsible for that more than any other film. I was enthralled by these urban sophisticates and the adult facades they maintained. The appeal wasn’t just the gossipy nature of Pinter laying his indiscretions bare, either. It was the tangle of melancholy and joy within. It was a glimpse into a world that I didn’t know what to do with. And it was the deft use of the backwards chronology that transcended gimmickry. I was beguiled and perplexed. I knew that I was supposed to be feeling something very specific, but I wasn’t yet fully equipped to understand what. Over the ensuing years, I returned to it again and again and each time I grasped more of it. It’s still yielding its pensive pleasures thirty-odd years down the road. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean. Maybe one of these days it will see the home media release it deserves. For now, it languishes in the realm of VHS only. That’s the true betrayal here.

What you’ll find in this episode: tablecloths from Venice, deception, the terrifying intensity of Sir Ben Kingsley, and growing up via cable television.

– Cole

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Betrayal on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of The Song of Lunch.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Turtle Diary.
A great list of films employing reverse chronology.
A handy introduction to Harold Pinter and his works.