Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Agatha" with Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman (1978)

The only excuse I can possibly have for having not seen this film before is that I was at sea from 1976 until 1984; consequently, I missed quite a few movies, and this is one of those. The story is set in 1926, the year in which Ms. Christie actually did disappear for a period of 11 days; and her whereabouts never explained. She was married at the time to a Colonel Christie, who was having an affair with his secretary, one Ms. Neele. Two years after the fictitious events in this film, the two divorced, and he married Ms. Neele.

Based solely upon that bit of gossip from the 1920’s, Kathleen Tynan penned this story almost 50 years later, creating a real life Agatha Christie mystery in the process. Assisted in the screenplay by Arthur Hopcraft, the film is tightly woven. The inter play between Ms. Redgrave, as Ms. Christie, and Dustin Hoffman as the sleuthing American journalist Wally Stanton, who uncovers the truth behind her disappearance, is almost palpable in the affection between the two. Although they never get together, the viewer is left wishing they had.

The most important thing to remember when watching this film is that it is fiction, based, though it is, upon a true event. The disappearance of Ms. Christie has never fully been resolved, and the story presented here could actually have been the truth. One never knows. Director Michael Apted does a great job in keeping this film on track, as well as capturing the mixture of fear; and affection; between the two main characters, as Mr. Stanton first attempts to solve the mystery for personal gain, only to abandon those efforts to shield a woman he has come to deeply admire. This film was a very pleasant surprise.

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