The decadence and elegance of a middle class family home in London, hosting a dinner party, is surely a boring and arrogant approach to a film. yet the Director of The Party, Sally Potter seems to capture a raw and unthinkable scenario that we cannot begin to relate to in its complex ways.
This was one of the films I was lucky enough to see at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival, and without a doubt it was one of the best. It follows the story of recently elected minister of health Janet (Kristen Scott Thomas) and her somewhat rude and oblivious husband Bill (Timothy Spall). what starts out as a simple celebration quickly turns into ‘one of those’ dinners to put it simply. Their guests of the party include Tom (Cillian Murphy) a high class banker, that can’t seem to stop taking cocaine, as well as best friend April (Patrica Clarkson) and her German hippy boyfriend Gottfreid (Bruno Ganz). While this is already quite a mixture of people all attending one dinner party, Potter decided quite cleverly to modernise the film and the fairly old fashioned characters in it, by adding the couple pregnant Jinny and seemingly wise Martha (Emily Mortimer and Cherry Jones).
This mix of characters seems to work very well within the films story, there are several subplots that don’t, for once, all meet in the middle. As confusing as it sounds, Janet is perhaps not the main character, yet it’s her party and her celebration.
What works very well in this film is the significantly sourced soundtrack that results in Bill’s only interest in the night. Everything from jazz to swing and classical are thrown into a whirlwind of a musical in their own right. They don’t dominate the film, and at the same time they do. Sometimes used in a comedic way, the music adds to a particularly good scene where Bill is lying ‘Dead’ on the floor. If I say the event as to why he is on the floor, it will ruin the whole film and I don’t feel like doing that. A film like this shouldn’t be read about nor discussed before being watched, its far to interesting to be broken down in a review for.
Unlike the natural conventions of a feature film, The Party has a running time of 71 minutes. This in my view gives it a reason to be interesting, because you know it’s not going to outlast its welcome. There is a sharp and snappy background to this film, and Potter has undoubtedly kept it short so that the audience does feel like an awkward guest at the party, waiting patiently for a right time that’s been long enough to politely excuse themselves.
The Party was a wonderful explosion of middle class problems, filmed in a very sophisticated look of black and white, allowing you to focus on the acting and the script as a whole. I can clearly see this making a wonderful play some day, it has all the right conventions, and the ending is a course of the dinner you simply cannot miss.
You can watch a clip from the film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_3BCLgdHhQ