Another Country – Netflix in June

Another Country (1984)

Another Country is a 1984 British romantic historical drama written by Julian Mitchell, adapted from his play of the same name. Directed by Marek Kanievska, the film stars Rupert Everett and Colin Firth in his feature film debut.

Another Country is loosely based on the life of the spy and double agent Guy Burgess, Guy Bennett in the film. It explores his homosexuality and exposure to Marxism while examining the hypocrisy and snobbery of the English public school system.

Plot summary

The setting is a public school, modeled on Eton and Winchester, in the 1930s. Guy Bennett (Rupert Everett) and Tommy Judd (Colin Firth) are pupils and because they are both outsiders in their own ways, friends (Bennett is gay while Judd is a Marxist).

One day, a teacher walks in on Martineau (Philip Dupuy) and a boy from another house engaged in mutual masturbation. Martineau subsequently kills himself and teachers and the senior pupils try their hardest to keep the scandal away from parents and the outside world. The gay scandal, however, gives the army-obsessed house captain Fowler (Tristan Oliver) a welcome reason to scheme against Bennett. Fowler dislikes him and Judd and wants to stop Bennett from becoming a “God” – a school title for the two top prefects. Fowler is able to intercept a love letter from Bennett to James Harcourt (Cary Elwes). Bennett agrees to be punished with a whipping so as not to compromise Harcourt; whereas, on earlier occasions, he had avoided punishment by blackmailing the other “Lords” with the threat that he would reveal their own experiences with him.

Meanwhile, Judd is reluctant to become a prefect, since he feels that he cannot endorse a “system of oppression” such as this. He makes a memorable, bitter speech about how the boys oppressed by the system grow up to be the fathers who maintain it. Eventually, however, he agrees to become a prefect in order to prevent the hateful Fowler from becoming Head of House. This never comes about because Donald Devenish (Rupert Wainwright) agrees to stay at school and become a prefect if he is nominated to become a God instead of Bennett.

Devastated at the loss of his cherished dream of becoming a God, Bennett comes to realise that the British class system strongly relies on outward appearance and that to be openly gay is a severe hindrance to his intended career as a diplomat.

The film’s epilogue reports that he defected to Russia later in his life, after having been a spy for the Soviet Union. Judd died fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

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