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Film / The End of the Affair (1999)

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The End of the Affair is a 1999 romantic drama film directed by Neil Jordan, starring Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore and Stephen Rea. It is adapted from the book of the same name by Graham Greene (Author), which was already adapted into film in 1955.

In 1946, Maurice Bendrix (Fiennes) meets by chance Henry Miles (Rea), the husband of his ex-mistress Sarah (Moore). Maurice and Sarah broke up two years ago. Now Henry tells Maurice that he suspects his wife of having an affair and he considers using the services of a private investigator. Since Henry does not dare to do it because he is afraid he will look ridiculous, Maurice Bendrix offers to contact the private investigator on his behalf.

The End of the Affair provides examples of:

  • The '40s: The main plot is set in 1946. There are several flashbacks set during World War II.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Before meeting Bendrix, Sarah was bored with her life because her husband Henry was distant and bad at sex. So she has an affair with Bendrix. After Sarah breaks up with her lover, Henry and Sarah's wedded life gets worse: Sarah becomes depressed because she misses her lover and Henry notices that her wife is distant and becomes depressed because he thinks that she has an affair.
  • Bargain with Heaven: During the V-1 bombing, Sarah promises God that she will not see her lover Maurice if he gets back to life. Years later, she realizes that she cannot keep her promise and she sees Maurice again. She gets ill and dies soon thereafter.
  • Black-Tie Infiltration: Parkis infiltrates the house of Henry and Sarah Miles during a party. He gets into Sarah's bedroom and steals her diary.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Lance's birthmark does not seem to be an important plot point, until it is revealed that it disappeared after Sarah kissed it.
  • Distinguishing Mark: A large birthmark covers half of the face of Lance, Parkis's son.
  • Downer Ending: Sarah dies. Maurice and Henry are devastated. Maurice writes that he hates God.
  • Emasculated Cuckold: When Bendrix meets Henry Miles in the beginning, he is depressed because he thinks that his wife has an affair. When Bendrix meets Miles again, he tells Miles that Sarah has a lover, and Miles realizes that Bendrix was her lover in the past, so Henry is desperate. Bendrix notes: "He seemed one of the anonymous, the dispossessed" and pities him.
  • The Film of the Book: It is the second film adaptation of the book of the same name by Graham Greene (Author).
  • Fire and Ice Love Triangle: Two men love Sarah: Henry, her aloof husband, and Bendrix, a passionate writer.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Downplayed because of the Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane nature of the plot, but Bendrix remains a convinced atheist even if he witnesses Sarah's death throes after she broke a promise to God. Subverted after Sarah's funeral: he writes that he hated God as though God existed (which implies that he still does not believe that God exists), but he eventually acknowleges the existence of God (he writes: "You used my hate to win my acknowledgement.")
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the beginning, Henry tells Sarah when she comes home: "You're wet through, Sarah. One day you'll catch your death of cold." This foreshadows her death from a respiratory disease.
    • Later in the film, in a Flashback, Sarah tells Maurice: "You may see me dead, but I will never be with another man." Maurice eventually sees her dead.
  • Framing Device: Bendrix typewriting his "diary of hate" is used to frame the main story.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: In the beginning, Bendrix meets a depressed Henry in the pouring rain. Later, when Bendrix tells Henry that Sarah has a lover, Henry becomes desperate and he sits on a bench in the pouring rain without his hat.
  • Healing Hands: It is implied that Sarah was able to make Lance Parkis's birthmark disappear by kissing it and wishing she could wash it away.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Bendrix is an atheist and he shows contempt for Sarah's beliefs and hatred towards God. He is also depressed.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Sarah coughs lightly in a restaurant and Bendrix asks if she's alright. Needless to say, she's on her death bed by the end of the film.
  • In Medias Res: The film starts with the meeting of Bendrix and Henry Miles in 1946, then Bendrix and Sarah's affair is told in several Flashbacks, interspersed with scenes of events happening in 1946.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Henry Miles eventually realizes that Sarah loves Bendrix deeply and he allows Bendrix to live with her during her final days.
  • Lousy Lovers Are Losers: Sarah has an Awful Wedded Life with her husband Henry, and one of the contributing factors is that he's a boring and poor lover. This is what causes Sarah to have an affair with Bendrix, and she's portrayed as a Sympathetic Adulterer for doing so.
  • Love Triangle: Maurice and Sarah love each other deeply. Henry, Sarah's husband, truly loves her: he begs her to stay when he guesses that she will break up with him (even if he is aware that she has been unfaithful) and, in the end, he allows Maurice to live with her during her final days.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Bendrix survived the bombing after Sarah made a promise to God. When she breaks her promise, she gets terminally ill. Sarah eventually dies when Bendrix writes that he hates God. The birthmark of Lance Parkis disappears after Sarah kisses him. All this could be coincidences or signs of the power of God.
  • Meaningful Funeral: At the funeral of Sarah, Parkis reveals that the birthmark of his son disappeared after Sarah kissed it.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Parkis discovers that Sarah claims to have an appointment with a dentist, while she visits a man who is not a dentist. Parkis and Bendrix are convinced that this man is her new lover. Actually, he is a priest and Sarah visits him to receive spiritual guidance.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: The protagonist, Bendrix, is a writer.
  • Once More, with Clarity: Several events are showed from different points of view, which give additional details about the situation.
    • Sarah and Maurice's meeting in a restaurant is told from Maurice's point of view, then from Parkis's point of view and finally from Sarah's point of view. The second point of view reveals that Sarah is desperate, rather than angry at Maurice. The third point of view reveals her true feelings.
    • The V-1 bombing is told from Maurice's point of view, then from Sarah's point of view. This second point of view reveals that Sarah promised God that she will not see Bendrix any more.
    • Sarah's visit at the priest's house is showed from Lance's perspective, then from Sarah's. The second version reveals what Sarah told the priest.
  • Private Detective: Henry considers using the services of a private investigator to spy on his wife. Maurice finally hires one, Mr Savage, who puts Parkis, his employee, in charge of spying on Sarah.
  • Race for Your Love: After reading Sarah's diary, Bendrix runs to her house in the pouring rain. When he gets there, Sarah's leaving in a car. Bendrix runs after the car, then asks a taxi to Follow That Car.
  • Sanctuary of Solitude: After meeting Bendrix in a restaurant, Sarah is confused and sad and she goes to a church to seek solace. Parkis and his son follow her there.
  • Shoutout:
    • In the beginning, Bendrix says that jealous lovers are always tragic and he names Troilus as an example.
    • Bendrix and Sarah go see a film that is supposed to be an adaptation of one of Bendrix's books. The film is actually 21 Days. The screenplay of this film was written by Graham Greene (Author), but it is based on a play and a short story by John Galsworthy.
    • Parkis tells Bendrix that he called his son Lance, in reference to Lancelot, the knight of the Round Table. Bendrix immediately notes that Lancelot was found in bed with Guinevere. Later, Bendrix gives Lance the fake name of Arthur to infiltrate Smythe's house. He adds that Arthur's mother was fond of Tennyson (who wrote Idylls of the King).
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: Maurice Bendrix is an atheist, but he writes a "diary of hate" that he directs at God, who he sees as the main force coming between him and his lover Sarah. At the end of the movie, after seeing Sarah die shortly after resuming an affair that she promised God she would end forever, he curses God "as though (he) existed".
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: During the war, Sarah and Maurice fall deeply in love with each other, but Sarah is already married. They have an affair, but Sarah breaks up with Maurice because she promised God that she will not see him any more. Years later, they meet again and resume their affair, but Sarah is terminally ill and soon dies.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Sarah cheats on her husband Henry but she is portrayed sympathetically, because Henry is a boring civil servant who is bad at sex.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: The results of Sarah's tests show that she is going to die within six months.