The Collector"I suppose it was the loneliness and being far away from anything else that made me decide to buy the house. And after I did I told myself I'd never go through with the plan, even though I'd made all the preparations and knew where she was every minute of the day."
I wasn't sure at first if The Collector would hold up to my respectful memory of it. The first 20 minutes is needlessly slow. A mostly two-character drama about a psychologically wounded butterfly collector who kidnaps an attractive woman in the hopes that she will come to love him, the set up is a lengthy, wordless section where predator (Freddie, played by Terence Stamp) stalks Prey (Miranda, played by Samantha Eggar). I would have loved to spend this opening learning more about our two leads, but we only learn what Freddie tells us in the opening narration (quoted above). It's rather dull, with an overbearing score by Maurice Jarre.
A bit later, there's an awkward flashback that shows Freddie's outsider status in society. It's cartoonishly directed, like the coworkers in Wanted. However, every time Freddie brings up his deep rooted feelings of alienation - a major theme of the picture - I reflected back to this scene.
MIRANDA: We all want what we can't have.
FREDDIE: We all take what we can get.
The bulk of the film is the interplay between Freddie and Miranda and this is a classic case of "they don't make 'em like that anymore." Rather than rely on sensational suspense pieces, or cheap and tawdry violence and sexuality, The Collector gets under your skin merely on the basis of the great performances, the verbal battles. It's cat and mouse where the mouse must constantly talk the cat out of eating her. That being said, there is a perverse air to the claustrophobic setting. The film feels as sleazy as you can get for 1965, a mixture of Freddie's disturbing look at the world and Miranda's inability to hide her disdain - which Freddie interprets to be based on social class and not the fact that he's her captor - as well as her spectacular beauty.
During a great, very telling moment at the beginning of the film Freddie grabs hold of Miranda, and is in such close proximity can't help blurting out "I love you." He immediately recoils in shame, begins to make excuses like a lover who suffered from (*ahem*) premature release. Freddie constantly insists his attraction to her isn't sexual, yet time and again his actions show a man fighting with his primitive nature. He says he wants her to get to know him, but when she asks questions his answers are terse. He's walled off. She constantly tries to appease his requests, but he's too damaged by this point to let his guard down and trust her. He finds reason to fault her for not trying to connect, but the problem is his own. (Part of what I love about The Collector is you can interpret the relationship different ways. Many will argue that Miranda is partly responsible for what happens to her. That there was a better way to handle the situation.)
It's worth noting that Stamp and Eggar won Best Actor and Actress at Cannes. Eggar went on to earn an Oscar nomination. This is all deserved. There's also a very suspenseful sequence involving a bath, and while there are a couple of physical fights they're not nearly as interesting as the two leads and their characters engaging in psychological battles.
The Collector mostly holds up and may find a spot in my Top 100 of All Time. To see my current Ranks Click Here
Because they seem so thematically similar I'll be watching Peeping Tom next. Followed by...
The Long Good Friday
The Tin Drum