What You Need To Know:
(L, VV, SSS, N, AD, Ab) Few obscenities and profanities; graphic murder; repeated fornication scenes; several scenes with upper female nudity; alcohol abuse; and, anti-biblical premise with its portrayal of godless universe.
British Playwright Harold Pinter’s screenplay THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS is, of course, a misnomer: the “comfort” leads to death and the stranger is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Pinter’s plays, so-called “comedies of menace,” belonging to the “theatre of the absurd,” use apparently commonplace characters and settings but are invested with an atmosphere of fear, horror and mystery. Further, Pinter creates as much peculiar tension from the long silences between speeches as from the often curt and ambiguous speeches themselves. Ultimately, Pinter espouses a godless universe where man finds himself a victim of unseen, evil forces.
In the film, unmarried Britishers Colin and Mary spend their second holiday in Venice and are befriended by a stranger, Robert and his wife, who have ulterior designs on the relationship.
Colin is in some area of publishing and has brought along a loathsome (to him) book manuscript. Mary, who has two small children by another man back home in England, used to be an actress in an all-female theater company, but now mostly acts in TV commercials.
The conversations between Colin and Mary center on trivial, inconsequential subjects, chewed on and regurgitated endlessly. The terrible thing that happened to Mary becomes one big topic of conversation. In fact, the “terrible” thing turns out to be her ostracism by a bunch of coevals when she was eight or nine. Mary also frets about Colin’s not liking children: hers, or any others, for that matter.
Of course, their favorite topic is sex–talking about it and practicing it. So they each engage in their own fantasies to please the other in this topic of topics.
One night, when they desire a late-night snack, Mary and Colin encounter Robert, who takes them to a bar, then later, to his apartment, where they meet his wife, Caroline, and wind up staying the night.
Upon awakening in the morning, they discover their clothing gone. However, Mary dons a dressing gown from a nearby closet and leaves the room to look for the missing clothes. As she talks with Caroline, she discovers some disturbing things. Caroline has played the voyeur as she watched Mary and Colin sleeping. On a subsequent trip to the apartment, Mary learns that Robert has busied himself taking numerous photos of them, has blown them up, and plastered them on the bedroom wall.
In her conversation with Mary, Caroline bares some dreadful “secrets,” though she says she now enjoys the pain, of her life with Robert. It turns out that both Robert and Caroline are off-the-wall perverts. When Colin and Mary just “happen” to return to their apartment a short time later, Robert responds to Colin’s query concerning what the couple wants of Colin and Mary by slitting Colin’s throat.
So much for THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS. Distressingly, Pinter’s ideas reflected in this film, the existentialism, the hopelessness and the lack of real purpose in life, are too pervasive in numerous other films as well. How blessed we are as Christians to know the “God of hope and comfort”! Of course, the characters’ preoccupation with sex and their fragmented, inconsequential dialogue simply reveal the emptiness of their lives without God. Thus, we need to reach out to those around us who are like them with the life-changing Gospel of Christ.