We excitedly countdown to the 72nd Festival de Cannes with a different prize winning film each day.
The Collector, 1965
Prix d’interprétation féminine – Samantha Eggar
Prix d’interprétation masculine – Terrance Stamp
When The Collector opens, with the young Englishman catching a butterfly in a jar amidst some fanciful music, you’re being deceived already. Even when the man (Terrance Stamp), narrates how it might be loneliness that influenced the purchase of a large, country house. What follows is the man patiently driving around London, a casual, careful eye on the red head, Miranda (Samantha Eggar). He follows her for some time, until marooning her in an alleyway, and smuggling her with a chloroform-soaked handkerchief.
That is not to say that Frederick is not a collector of butterflies – he is. His latest acquisition might be the most significant and beautiful of all. If those opening actions do not convince you of this man’s instability, his reminiscing and prancing about in the rain ought to do it.
Frederick has Miranda locked in his spacious, stone cellar. He is considerate enough to provide her with some basic furnishings – armchair, bed, toilet facilities, a portable heater – to make her feel right at home as a hostage. Frederick returns soon enough with a tray of tea, asking Miranda if she slept well. Of course, she is deeply perturbed, especially so when the nutter declares just how much he knows about her.
William Wyler‘s 1965 chiller is a stunning portrayal of human dysfunction and insecurity. From both sides of a rather brittle fence. Taking what you want, and have for a long time, in such unfounded circumstances – based on a deluded affection, slash, infatuation. The consequences of which open the door to no end of trouble – for both parties potentially.
“The progression of The Collector is so intricately sewn together, weaving the dual-perspective of two people trapped in very different degrees of solitude and sanctuary.”
Frederick, clearly more lonely than he realizes, can’t even see how his action are morally corrupt, and largely lacking in the respect of other people. Even though he claims he will treat her with the utmost respect. Miranda, meanwhile, is a brash, bold young woman. Not afraid to call this meek man out, and attempting to escape on more than one occasion.
The progression of The Collector is so intricately sewn together, weaving the dual-perspective of two people trapped in very different degrees of solitude and sanctuary. Of course, being taken against your will is a horrendous act to be part of. In contrast, Frederick and Miranda share varying degrees of intellect and intuition.
He is calm, calculated, tricky to out-maneuver, while Miranda appears to rely on a spontaneous, relentless approach. She has to. And on their journey, he has the ineptitude to be surprised when Miranda expresses that she is frightened. But still, she has the gall to assert a wicked sense of humor from time to time – signing her name on one of her drawings to Frederick “Prisoner”.
Terrance Stamp is impeccable as the mentally-enclosed Frederick. He brings a kind of deadpan, sinister grimace to the loner (as we have seen many time since from Stamp). Always placid in the way he speaks, even demonstrating a form of courtesy and tenderness towards Miranda. In his misplaced outlook, his intentions are good. Crazy, I know, yet Stamp provides is with a means to just about empathize with this man.
“The dynamics between the two characters and their surroundings is flawless – there is not a segment out of place here.”
And then Samantha Eggar, a firecracker of a performance. Bursting with vibrancy and courage, the actress demonstrates how fear and uncertainty can fuel a natural sense of spirit and self-security. Every emotion is printed across her face, those eyes, her unfiltered vocal expression. Eggar, even as the mostly helpless captive, packs a figurative punch, illustrating a greater strength and cunning than her captor.
Both Stamp and Eggar took the acting prizes at the Cannes Film Festival. An inspired, well-deserved double honor given how the vary degrees of excellence in these roles means you just can’t simply reward one without the other. Except the Oscars, where only Eggar nabbed a nomination.
William Wyler, a superbly established filmmaker with a million Oscar nods under his belt, adds another unique directorial execution bullet to his belt. The maker of films like Roman Holiday, Mrs. Miniver, and Ben Hur, has crafted an utterly engaging, brilliant suspense drama with The Collector. The dynamics between the two characters and their surroundings is flawless – there is not a segment out of place here.
The film builds an unlikely relationship between Frederick and Miranda, and an inertly bewitching one. At times, when their walls are lowered, they interact and bicker, but rarely do they find a common ground. Given the situation, it is no wonder. The various mood shifts, and the resourceful pacing, make for an unwavering view.
The Collector brilliantly loses you in the connection between Frederick and Miranda, you quite possibly get so enthralled as to stop guessing where this might go. Every frame and edit is seamless and meaningful, maintaining the film’s unorthodox tension and dark comradery. Not just with the characters, but the audience that dwell with them.