David Hugh Jones was the third filmmaker to graduate from the BBC’s Monitor series — following (though less successfully) in the footsteps of John Schlesinger and Ken Russell. Though Jones’ forays into theatrical filmmaking have been limited, they’ve also tended to be of a literary nature and a pretty high caliber. Betrayal (1983)is an excellent case in point; it’s an intelligently filmed version of Harold Pinter’s play (rewritten for the screen by Pinter). Jones’ respect for the material is evident, and he handles the film in a manner that only enhances it.
It’s a tricky work, in that the action works backwards, with each successive scene occurring at an earlier time — an approach first attempted in the 1930s by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart with Merrily We Roll Along.
The device here isn’t arbitrary: Pinter uses it in this anatomy of an affair to add weight to an essentially rather thin story. Knowing the outcome affords the earlier scenes a deeply melancholy resonance, even at the lightest moments. Literate dialogue and stunning performances by Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley (with hair) and Patricia Hodge — along with Jones’ sensitive direction — make it a shattering experience.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke