Films by Harold Pinter
Comfort of Strangers 1989

Directed by Paul Schrader

Starring: Christopher Walken, Helen Mirren, Rupert Everett, Natasha Richardson

Based on the novel by Ian McEwan

Screenplay by Harold Pinter published in Collected Screenplays 3


The film's scriptwriter, (Harold Pinter or Mister Pinter as Christopher Walken calls him) arrived for a couple of weeks early in the rehearsal. He has bookended the script with a confession from Robert of his motives for the murder, a confession which highlights his fixation with an authoritarian father, and the sadistic games his sisters play upon him as a child. The extra material elevates the role from that in the book, and tones down slightly the novel's obsessive emphasis of the book upon the na´ve couple, Mary and Colin.

"The book is about the relation of the sexes. " Says Schrader. McEwan is saying that no amount of civilization is going to paper over the basic antagonism. Harold has mitigated that slightly by introducing this second theme, which is the persistence of adolescent memory. Robert's political and sexual obsessions are reenactments of childhood trauma and desire.

Chris Peachment, The Sunday Correspondent, April 1st 1990


Further Reading

Harold Pinter's Death in Venice: 'The Comfort of Strangers' by Katherine H. Burkman (Pinter Review 1992-3)

Cold Comfort: Harold Pinter's 'The Comfort of Strangers' by Stephanie Tucker (Pinter Review 1992-3)

'Harold Pinter's 'The Comfort of Strangers': Fathers, sons and other victims' by Christopher C. Hudgens (Pinter Review 1995-6)

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