Bliss was it in that dawn to alive,
But to be young was very heaven!
– William Wordsworth.
In 1966, I was commissioned to write The Cinema of Joseph Losey for the International Film Guide Series. This was one of two or three new series of paperbacks which had recently sprung up, along with several usually short-lived magazines. It had already published Robin Wood’s seminal Hitchcock’s Films. Back then, films, both popular and art-house, were the objects of an increasingly informed emotional and intellectual passion, and such new publications were both a result and a cause of these new cultural attitudes. The barriers between art and commerce seemed to be dissolving as, for a short time, the various branches of the industry provided an infrastructure for works of diversity and originality to be made, seen and appreciated. There were plenty of cinemas, a diversity of screening policies, and cheap admissions. It wasn’t just a matter of the usual suspects, Bergman, Antonioni, Resnais, the New Wave and so on. Films from new countries, some of which no longer exist, and new continents (Brazil, Cuba, India, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Africa) and new directors were being financed, distributed and exhibited, with nobody seeming to worry about the costs of subtitling. Europeans were staring to realize that Japanese cinema meant Ozu and Mizoguchi as much or more than Kurosawa. The careers of Buñuel and Bresson were given a new lease of life, and Antonioni went to Hollywood!
For more than a decade, in the cinema everything seemed possible. Not only were we being given new films and new forms, these led us towards the discovery of a new richness in, and thus a new understanding and appreciation of older films and forms. Now, particularly for young people, the classic film seems no longer amongst the most exciting of all art-forms; it is as if its transformation into an object for academic study has devitalized it. Sure there have been gains as a result of the work of some theorists (Laura Mulvey, for example) but for too many students, watching films for a course is a duty rather than a source of pleasure and excitement. In the U.K., all too often course films are seen on video, with all the debilitating effects on the transmission of audio-visual information and thus both emotional involvement and stylistic revelation this format inevitably entails.
Losey’s films were interesting on two counts. First, he’d started his feature career during the post-war period when Hollywood was recruiting a new generation of directors, and the new critics of the ’60s were now starting to appreciate the force and beauty of his early work in the commercial genres. Second, he was beginning to establish himself as an art-house director, and this new development was being hailed by both the Young Turks and the establishment critics. Moreover, the timing of my commission could not have been better: that year the National Film Theatre, which played an important role in widening our cinematic horizons, ran a complete Losey retrospective. And, what’s more, Losey was shooting Accident (1967). I spent several days watching him at work, and interviewing him. I guess we were both committed to the notion of developing a new audience, which led him to spend time talking to me, and is my explanation (or excuse) for some of the weaknesses of my book.
As far as I’m concerned, Blind Date (U.S. title Chance Meeting, 1959) is the most underrated of Losey’s films, and, not surprisingly, provoked the best-written chapter in my book, reproduced (slightly adapted) below. For literary folk, like Losey’s biographer David Caute, the film suggested what Losey might be able to do with what was perceived as its obvious lack, a good script. As far as I’m concerned, however, the efforts of Losey and his collaborators to make the story credible give the film a richness, a multi-layered complexity, and thus a range of thematic, social and political resonance which, say, Accident lacks. As I said in my book (writing about Time Without Pity, and following the lead of an important article by Robin Wood in Motion, one of the new magazines): “One of the peculiar forces of Losey’s art derives from the tension which exists between the genre in which he is working and the logic of the structure and symbolism of his movie. His films have a formal coherence of meaning on more than one level.” This tension was lost when Losey graduated to his new genre of choice, the European art movie, and to good scripts. Dirk Bogarde, talking about Accident to John Russell Taylor (Sight & Sound, Autumn 1966), gives one the feeling of a director on a Parsifal-like quest:
“When Joe first told me about it I asked him, quite simply, ‘What sort of film is it going to be, what sort of film do you want to make?’ He looked at me for a minute, to see that I wasn’t being smart, and then said, ‘The perfect film. This time I’m going to make the perfect film. I’ve got the perfect script, the perfect cast, the perfect crew. All I need now is the sun for as long as it takes.’ And really that’s just how it has been. The script is fantastic – I think the best script Harold has done. It’s so sharp, so pared down. And the cast, well, I can’t imagine how we could fit more perfectly together…” (p. 182)
An idealistic notion of filmmaking seems here to have taken Losey over, threatening to usurp his talents as a filmmaker. Purpose has replaced any surrender to “a creative experience in which… mind plays only a small part” (see Gregory Bateson: Steps to an Ecology of Mind, where the essays “Style, Grace and Information in Primitive Art”, “Form, Substance and Difference” and “Conscious Purpose versus Nature” offer a revealing exploration of the mental processes involved in artistic creation).
Thus many critics have hailed The Servant (1963) as Losey’s comment on Britain’s great political scandal of the ’60s, the Profumo affair. Losey would certainly agree with them. After all, one of the prime functions of the scene between James Fox, Sarah Miles and the designer chair was to generate a visual evocation of an iconic photographic image of Christine Keeler (who had a lead role in the scandal, and became one of its victims) posed in a similar chair. Such consciously controlled references, however, offer less insight into the Profumo affair than the class and dramatic conflicts in Blind Date, which was made some years before the scandal erupted. Perhaps precisely because these were generated in an attempt to give a “trite” story credibility rather than to deliver a message, they are more effective in evoking a socially determined collective blindness. Why should a viewer care about such mundane things as a credible plot when the movie he or she is watching generates so many meanings to take on board? (These days, few are likely to remember Profumo’s name, though some film buffs may recall that of his wife, Valerie Hobson. Suffice to say that Profumo was Minister of War, and successfully lied to the House of Commons about his involvement with an upmarket call girl ring. A Soviet diplomat – probably a spy, and according to some reports bisexual – was also involved with this ring. Profumo got away with it for several months because everyone felt more comfortable accepting the word of a gentleman than they would if they’d felt it necessary to pursue the story and run the risk of provoking a scandal. Ultimately, the affair was to be a factor in Harold Macmillan’s resignation as Prime Minister, and, later in the decade, the electoral defeat of the Conservative government).
Clearly Losey can be congratulated on his prescience. If anything, there’s now a greater pressure towards the commodification of human relationships than in the society depicted in Blind Date and other of his early films. Morgan may have become a spin doctor mouthing obfuscations designed to replace the gentlemanly self-deceptions of Sir Brian Lewis. Or maybe he now has the latter’s job, and is likely to be rather more zealous in insisting on the necessity of the cover-up. Ministers seem increasingly cavalier about the truth of their statements and the integrity of their promises.
Anyone interested in a fuller version of the case against Losey’s later movies than mine, put with a polemic sometimes so forceful as to verge on the cruel, can turn to pp. 452-3 of David Thomson’s A Biographical Dictionary of Film, where he writes:
“The Servant marked Losey’s coming of age among the artistic elite… the man who had made The Prowler and M as gripping, low-budget thrillers was now working in a world ready to acclaim his seriousness. Thus, some critics praised the subtlety and ignored the hysteria in The Servant. That was a disservice to Losey, whose strength had always been a fusion of the two.
“From The Criminal onward, the attention that Losey had long enjoyed in France was growing in Britain. The Servant could not have completed the trick better: it indulged the facile guilt of the English intelligentsia; it was a collaboration with the playwright Harold Pinter; and it offered unexpected depth to an English favorite, Dirk Bogarde… Accident was highly praised, whereas it should have been taken to pieces for its ingrown artiness, its self-conscious beauty, and its opting for restraint rather than urgency…”
These are issues I failed to confront in 1967, making an almost conscious decision to defer to shared hopes about the development of a new audience, one open to new conceptions of the cinema. I failed to trust my instincts, perhaps because sometimes in the past new films or further viewings had shown me that my initial reactions had been wrong. Maybe I would come to feel the same about Losey’s artistic development. I haven’t.
Thomson moves on to The Go-Between:
“…exactly the sort of prettified, literary pomp that passes for intelligent cinema in Britain. It is not equal to a paragraph of Hartley’s novel, nor a reel of so painful a film as The Damned. Losey is a director of violence: originally it was externalized… In Eve and The Servant it went inward. Now it was gone, and Losey was perched on calendar photographs and the pinnacle dialogue of Harold Pinter…”
The obsession with good scripts and pinnacle dialogue is having a disastrous effect on British movies. They offer an apparently irresistible temptation to the bureaucrats and accountants who have become gatekeepers to our dreams. Words and ideas win financing, not cinematic talent. A script offers no more to a great moviemaker than an opera libretto does to a great composer. As my friend Nick Ray (born 20 miles from Losey a couple of years later) used to say: “If it’s all in the script, why make the movie?”
* * *
It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the other hand, their social being determines their consciousness.
– Karl Marx, preface to The Critique of Political Economy
The following extract from The Cinema of Joseph Losey (London and New York 1967, pp. 79 – 89) appears here (slightly adapted) with the permission of the author, who feels that it reveals clear traces of the his own puritanism and idealism!
“Brisk and well-made if illogical whodunit, laced with sex, class feeling and hints of corruption at Scotland Yard.”
– Sight and Sound, Summer-Autumn, 1959
“Blind Date, I would say, was, in a certain way, a transition period. It was the last and best of one kind, and it foreshadowed another kind … when we got into Blind Date, I felt it essential, because it was a very unrealistic story – a very trite story, and a rather incredible story in terms of contrivance – that we give it as much interest in terms of observation and reality as we could, and that the characters be very rich. Therefore, I wanted to make the artist a coalminer, and somebody who was self-made and still painted from the memory of his earlier experiences, and I wanted to use Stanley as a Welshman who, as I’ve already said, is a natural antagonist to the English – I don’t know whether the outside world understands this or not – and who was also working-class, but who found himself caught up in a British class-structure of the most rigid old boy kind of set-up, where, unless he behaved in certain ways, his chances of promotion were slight, but who shared with the Dutchman a kind of passionate sense and desire for the truth.
“The truth that the boy knew was one thing, the truth that Morgan saw was another, because he saw a tart’s flat. And we tried to make a flat that had, in fact, three layers: first of all it had been a stable on an old estate, and there are elements of that stable; secondly, it had probably been lived in by a series of people who were rather tasteless and bourgeois, the last layer of which was the decoration that the girl herself had probably carried out, with the money of her lover. And the third one consisted of the few very valuable things that he’d given her, like that genuine small van Dyck, which in fact it was, and a few other things. So that, to a very careful observer, there were three layers. However, Morgan would see only a tart’s flat, the Dutchman would see none of this, except the girl he knew, or thought he knew, excepting perhaps these very valuable things, which he couldn’t reconcile with the interior of this flat.”
“It upset people; they seemed to want to reject what the film was saying, and started to talk about hints of corruption at Scotland Yard, and so on; that’s not really the right word, is it? ”
“No, it’s influence, knowing the right people. Being the right person. Doing the right thing. It did upset people, but not everybody, by any means, and now it’s very old hat. I don’t think that there’s anything in Blind Date that would shock anybody now, but at the time it was different. John Trevelyan had just become censor. He wasn’t at all disturbed by that aspect of it. He was very worried about one dressing, or rather, undressing, scene, which he cut, I think mistakenly, but it’s the only time he has cut anything out of any film of mine. The people who were distributing it, in particular, and some of the people who had a part of the financing, were very concerned about the attitude toward the police, which they hadn’t encountered before (and which they thought was part of the job of the censorship): that it was not in good taste, that it was not true, and so on. As a matter of fact, I think that the Baker character is highly flattering to the police, and the question of influence is not likely to affect only the English. It occurs wherever somebody knows somebody else, on whatever basis you can get to speak to him. Not to ask him to be dishonest, necessarily, in return for any favour, but just to suggest that certain kinds of behaviour are not advantageous, and that others are. This bothered them, of course. Then, I suppose, the suggestion that a high-ranking diplomat was involved in a sexual scandal. This now has, of course, become rather old hat.
“But this attitude is typical of most film industries. It’s certainly typical of the American industry, and it’s pretty much typical of the English industry … And to suggest that there could be real characters and a certain minimal amount of content in a thriller was virtually heresy. Although there had been a few adult thrillers before, there hadn’t been any adult treatment of the English police system. Curiously enough, in this respect the Americans are much more liberal. They, people in general, don’t like the police in the United States. It’s largely taken for granted that a certain percentage of them are corrupt, and The Prowler, which presented a man who was pathetic, and if you like eventually psychopathic, and who was a victim to the extent that he had, at the beginning, retained a wrong set of values, but who committed murder in uniform, added to theft and embezzlement, and in general behaved violently and hypocritically from the beginning. Yet this was never found offensive by anybody, at least not by anybody who wrote about it, and no audience I heard of raised any kind of protest after seeing it. And that was considerably earlier …
“It certainly is fantastic the degree to which the English class structure influences practically every Englishman’s life, either in rebellion against it, or acceptance of it, or simply through their being gotten at by it without realising it, and sometimes whilst violently protesting that they’re not.” (Joseph Losey interviewed by James Leahy during the shooting of Accident).
“We’re all more or less blind; we can see precisely only the things we work with every day”; Jan van Rooyen’s remark states the unifying theme of Blind Date, one of Losey’s two finest and most complex movies to date. This is true, even, of the audience viewing the film; the general rejection of the idea of Scotland Yard complicity in the covering-up of a sex scandal involving a diplomat was a manifestation of precisely the moral blind-spot which the film exposed. Critics coarsened the subtle truth the film embodied into a suggestion of “corruption” (thus evoking the “Corruption at Scotland Yard? Ridiculous idea!” reflex), an establishment response not unlike that of the representative in the movie of the establishment, Sir Brain Lewis, the Assistant Commissioner of Police, who says of his friend, the diplomat Sir Howard Fenton, who has been keeping the murdered Jacqueline Cousteau: “He can’t possibly have any direct connection with this woman’s death.” Lewis knows; it’s “A question of background.” Thus it would not be in the public interest for Inspector Morgan to pursue a line of investigation which might involve Sir Howard. It might “upset important negotiations” which Sir Howard is carrying on for the British Government. It would be better to convict van Rooyen quickly, even if he is let off with a manslaughter charge which he may be persuaded to plead guilty to, than undertake a lengthy search for evidence. If Morgan is to go right to the top – he has the ability to do so – he must reveal “An understanding of the deeper meanings of public service.”
Sir Brian is not attempting to tell Morgan what he must do (“It’s your case, Morgan. The decision is entirely yours.”); nor has he been in any way corrupted by outside forces. He is just stating the facts as he sees them: unnecessary scandal should be avoided, particularly if it is likely to harm the national interest. Losey convincingly evokes, through Morgan’s prurient fascination with Jacqueline Cousteau, with her apartment, with her underwear, the kind of sexual infatuation which would make an important diplomat risk his self-respect and his career for a call-girl, and depicts with uncanny accuracy the kind of upper-class “old boy” solidarity which would help to conceal this liaison. Four years later, it was this lack of awareness, and this kind of desire to preserve the solidarity of the establishment, that enabled the Profumo affair to take on such far-reaching proportions. Blind Date comments on the moral awareness of a whole society, from the self-deceiving establishment down to the little postman who rounds vindictively on Jan when he guesses he is a suspect. Thus, Jan’s jaunt through the sights of London evokes more than a real sense of place; it provides the social framework for the drama. Parliament Square, symbolic of the British tradition of democracy and public service, is symbolic, too, of the belief in the complete integrity of that tradition which is questioned by the movie.
If the vision of the members of the establishment is limited by their “background”, that of Jan van Rooyen is similarly limited and that of Morgan almost distorted by their shared working-class backgrounds. Just as the thriller was the ideal vehicle for Losey’s concerns in Time Without Pity, so the mystery is the ideal genre for the investigation Losey undertakes in Blind Date. The movie is essentially about he processes of deception and revelation, about ‘seeing’ and ‘seeming’, about illusion and reality. The progress of the film is a progress through illusion and deception toward reality and truth.
The truth is something which is difficult to see precisely because deception and self-deception, the simple answers, present a less complex, less challenging, more comfortable picture of the world. Morgan, Jan, the audience participate in a search for truth; here, the convention of the mystery takes on a heightened significance; thus, knowledge of the plot would lessen the sense of confusion, and then the revelation, that a spectator experiences on seeing the film for the first time. The kind of fresh awareness one gains from seeing Blind Date corresponds very closely to the kind of fresh awareness both Jan and Morgan gain as a result of Morgan’s investigation (Morgan’s first action in the movie is to switch on the lights in the apartment in which Jan has been detained; he tells Jan: “I’m conducting an investigation…”). Morgan’s search for truth – his refusal to accept an account such as Sir Brian’s, which does not square with what he has been able to see of Jacqueline Cousteau – can be read as a metaphor for the artist’s search for truth. The relationship between Morgan and Jan is almost that of artist and audience, or analyst and patient, though Jan is not an audience, a non-contributing recipient of Morgan’s vision of the world, but a stubborn, intractable obstacle which must somehow be incorporated into that vision if that vision is to be whole. Though Morgan is dissatisfied with Sir Brian’s manslaughter deal, he tries it out on Jan, testing him. Jan replies that that would be to let the real murderer go free. At dawn, after an exhausting night of questioning, Jan starts to fight back, realising that he needs to search rather than merely state what he believes to be true if he is to escape from the trap that has closed round him: “Who sent her those cheques every week? Morgan, what are you hiding?”
Both men learn about themselves from the solution of the mystery. Despite his distaste for the “old boy” network as represented by Sir Brian Lewis, and for the self-deceptions Sir Brain represents, Morgan shares some of Sir Brian’s illusions about society, and is thus for a long time unable to believe the truth he is starting to see: “I thought I had none of that left in me,” he says when he realises how respect for the upper-classes has affected his judgement in the case. Morgan has been deeply affected by his class experiences. He is full of chip-on-the-shoulder remarks (“Friend of yours, sir?”), surface hostility, precisely because he feels he does not fit in with people like Sir Brian, or his own fellow Inspector, Westover; it is as if the latter’s sarcastic remarks about his style of dress (“Been weekending in the country?”) had really gotten through to him, making him feel inferior. He projects his own sense of social inferiority on to Jan: he refers to Jan’s account of his affair with a society lady as “The sort of bragging lie kids like to tell,” thus evoking a vision of upper-class life as seen by the lower-classes not dissimilar to that of Strindberg’s Jean in Miss Julie (a very Losey character, both victim and exploiter, who has affinities with both Barrett and Webb Garwood).
Morgan’s consciousness is very closely related to that of a Jean, a Barrett, or a Garwood; it is his passion for truth, his ability to find meaning and significance outside his own selfish concerns that distinguishes him from them; he is not crippled as they are; he is someone who is able to learn, and to use his social experience creatively. When he tells Sir Brian that Jacqueline Cousteau “wasn’t a giver. She was a taker”, Sir Brain challenges him: “You sound as if you know?”; “I do. My father was a chauffeur”; this, too, is “A question of background.”
In a beautifully subtle image later in the movie, Morgan and Jan are speaking to Jan’s Jacqueline, Lady Fenton, when her chauffeur moves into the background of the image to say: “I have Sir Howard’s luggage in the car, whenever you’re ready, Lady Fenton”. Blind Date is a movie of incredibly tight organization – witness the motif of ice and fire running through it: “Ice can burn,” ‘Jacqueline’ tells Jan early in the movie; face to face with Jan at the end, Lady Fenton goes to the fire to warm herself; the action, as well as having organic connection to the theme and symbols of the movie, is psychologically absolutely right at this moment.
There is some justice and accuracy in Morgan’s description of Jan as a kid when placed in the environment of the affluent. Morgan questions Jan about the fact that his fingerprints were found all over the apartment; Jan admits his fascination with the apartment; he “wandered around looking at things”; “And washed your hands? Why, were they dirty?”; Jan admits sheepishly, “I just wanted to know what the soap smelt like.” Morgan responds to the admission; Jan’s behaviour is something he can understand. Though Jan is deeply intolerant of the world of appearances and deceptions that his Jacqueline comes from (like Morgan, he speaks as if he were confident that he has “none of that” left in him), the aggressiveness of his lectures to her also reveal him as being particularly vulnerable, frightened even, because inexperienced. He wants to reject his Jacqueline’s femininity: “Women adore small meaningless attentions,” she says, “like being helped with a coat”; when she suggests he teach her to paint, he challenges her motives: what does she really want? “To play a game?”; “Painting is work,” he says, “Do you think you can paint until your head aches …?” He does not want to have an affair with her: “If you want to play games, find somebody else.” He is dominated by his background; his art is a masculine evocation of struggle and work, and therefore incomplete. He can state categorically: “The human body is a continent. You can spend a lifetime exploring it,” but he flinches away when Jacqueline responds flirtatiously to the sexual implications of the statement. Yet those sexual implications are an essential part of the full import of the statement. Jacqueline is quick to notice that he does not paint women. Jan’s need for a relationship in which he can grow, his need for sexual love, companionship and communication, make it possible for Jacqueline to ensnare him in the illusions and deceptions of her society, deceptions symbolised by the décor of the ostentatiously vulgar apartment in which he is detained; the education he undergoes during the course of the movie is essentially a process of liberating him from what that apartment represents.
His relationship with Jacqueline make him unable to see clearly; he tries to paint her, but cannot. He senses what is wrong, and turns to Jacqueline: “Have you ever given? Really given? Poured it out in a flood?”; she replies: “I don’t know what you mean.” He painted an old woman once, “ugly, worn, reptilian,” and thought he had created something beautiful. Then, he produced something true, but now he is blinded by deceptions which are intimately connected with his idealism, an idealism which, because honest, is his strength, but which, because naïve, is his weakness. The flashbacks, illustrating Jan’s account of the affair, are set in bright, well-lit places (art galleries, a studio); the apartment and the police station where Morgan interrogates Jan are lit so that they appear dark, oppressive. The truth seems something dark and evil, the deception clear and beautiful. Though the lighting of the flashbacks expresses Jan’s idealisation of the affair, the action seems to be recorded objectively, an expression of Jan’s essential honesty, an honesty which comes across, too, in the letter he sends to Jacqueline, and which Morgan reads. Morgan claims that letters like it frequently crop up in murder cases: “Not as well written as this, but the same general idea” – an insensitive remark, because the quality of the writing is an expression of Jan’s whole personality, which is that of a creator nor a killer. He writes “I haven’t been able to work and that’s where I get off”. The lighting in the final sequences of the movie, though they are not in flashback, is less murky; the destruction of his illusions has made the truth more acceptable to Jan; the flash of illumination and revelation when Jan glimpses his Jacqueline again occurs in a brightly-lit exterior at London Airport. Jan does not cling desperately to his illusions, whereas, say, Tony in The Servant has nothing else to cling to. Jan is an artist, and is therefore able to find meaning and significance outside his own personal concerns (though their vision may be limited, Losey’s artists are creative in precisely the way that Antonioni’s are not). He thus has the strength to face the truth and survive.
Jan’s Jacqueline obeys the rules of the game; emotions are subordinated to appearances; a prisoner of her own society, she cannot avoid superficiality – in art, in love – and she is incapable of the self-discipline which goes with genuine freedom (she cannot see the point of the drawing exercise Jan sets her). Jan loves her and makes love to her with a passion and genuine emotion which touches her. It is something outside her normal experience. Jan allows himself to believe that a woman as superficial, as concerned with appearances, as Jacqueline could feel genuine emotion for him, that this is, for her more than just a sexual adventure. And he becomes sufficiently involved in the relationship for his work (the symbol of his inner freedom) to suffer.
This then is the illusion that Jan allows to be built up around his relationship – that superficial sexuality is in fact love. The apartment in which he is arrested symbolises this kind of sexuality. In fact it belongs not to his Jacqueline, but to the real Jacqueline Cousteau. It is cheaply vulgar, just as her underclothes are cheaply sexy, and she a cheap woman on the make. Jan’s account of Jacqueline does not square with this picture al all (one of the facts that first arouses Inspector Morgan’s suspicions) but objectively his Jacqueline is much closer to the real Jacqueline than she is to Jan, or to Jan’s image of her. She is a product and a prisoner of the same kind of society; the society that values appearances above reality, teasing affairs above love, money above all. Although Jan’s Jacqueline has a taste the real Jacqueline does not possess, this is more a sensitivity to fashion and convention than a genuine, felt sensibility. And she is in no sense the real Jacqueline’s moral superior; both give themselves to men they want to make use of. The society which produces the one Jacqueline will inevitably produce the other. Except… except that Jan did arouse in his Jacqueline a spark of genuine emotion. It was not all pretence, Jan’s vision of the relationship was not entirely self-deception. But this spark of emotion is her downfall; it forces her to recognise Jan at the police-station, and she has played the game too hard to be able to break the rules, even for a moment, without being destroyed. As Morgan says: “You’re a woman a man remembers.” The code is strict and allows no exceptions. Love, emotion, are breaches of the rules, and leave the individual in particular danger. Yet they are the standards by which those who are outside this emotional prison, and free from the constraints of the code, order their lives. Thus Jacqueline’s final words to Jan – “Damn you” – have more than just a personal significance. They are the curse uttered by a society that has no place for the kind of sympathy, communication and strength that he represents: a curse on art, growth, creativity, on all that undermines the highly specialised adaptation necessary for survival in the world of the Jacquelines; the curse of negation. Growth, communication, sympathy, awareness of something outside oneself, give meaning to relationships, and thus, in an agnostic universe, to human existence. Life and creation are for Losey the process in which man fulfils his deepest spiritual needs.