The Shooting Party is one of my favorite films. It illustrates in a sublime way, the end of an era and its illusions concerning order and civilization, based on an specific Social Order.
The Squire, played by James Mason, and its natural and authentic connection with the local inhabitants, represents the last reference of a gone sense of “oblige” and responsibility in an alienated society.
It announces the inevitable decline of the landed aristocracy with the coming of the First World War.
Many will not come back, the death duties will increase and the birth of The National Trust and its Country House scheme will become inevitable.
"Elegiac in tone and full of muted browns and greens The Shooting Party captures the period beautifully, showing the class divide which World War One helped to break down some."
The Shooting Party is a 1985 film directed by Alan Bridges and based on the book of the same name by Isabel Colegate. The film is set in 1913 and shows the way of life of English aristocrats, gathered for pheasant shooting and general self-indulgence. Their way of life is contrasted with the local rural poor, who serve as 'beaters', driving the game for the aristocrats to shoot.
There is a general feeling of the end of a way of life, as the characters go about their lives unaware of the coming war (World War I) and the changes it will bring.
This is the last film appearance by James Mason, who plays Sir Randolph Nettleby, the local landowner who has something of the old values. Edward Fox as Lord Gilbert Hartlip represents the newer types who don't have the same solid beliefs: he gets into a competition over who is the best shot, despite his host's disapproval.
The film was reviewed positively by the eminent critic Pauline Kael. "Bridges [as can be seen also in his 1982 film The Return of the Soldier], has a special gift for these evocations of a world seen in a bell jar, and now, with Geoffrey Reeve as producer and Fred Tammes as cinematographer, he has refined his techniques. A late bloomer (he was born in 1927), Bridges goes beyond being pictorial and literary. He sharpens the novel's wry observations on the Edwardian era and at the same time infuses a sensuous sweetness into the material. On television, a novel like The Shooting Party would be a six part series, full of longueurs. Here, after we've met the key members of the party, the film puts us among actions and conversations going on simultaneously. And as the events become more intense Bridges picks up the pace and tightens the film's emotional hold on us. Actresses such as Cheryl Campbell and Judi Bowker make a stronger impression in their brief screen time than they do in their much longer stints on TV. Cheryl Campbell is at one moment a pert-faced, nosy gossip, and at the next a tantalising sensualist being caressed by her own long, wavy blond hair. It's a quicksilver performance that recalls Joan Greenwood at her most seductive. And Judi Bowker as the guileless Lady Olivia, the wife of thick-headed Lord Lilburn (Robert Hardy), looks at the camera with a direct gaze that makes her seem infinitely beautiful. When the tall, slim young barrister Lionel Stephens (Rupert Frazer), declares his love for her, you think, Of course - how could he look into her clear eyes and not imagine depths of mystery?"
James Mason as Sir Randolph Nettleby
Edward Fox as Lord Gilbert Hartlip
Dorothy Tutin as Lady Minnie Nettleby
John Gielgud as Cornelius Cardew
Gordon Jackson as Tom Harker
Cheryl Campbell as Lady Aline Hartlip
Robert Hardy as Lord Bob Lilburn
Aharon Ipalé as Sir Reuben Hergesheimer
Joris Stuyck as Count Tibor Rakassyi
Rebecca Saire as Cicely Nettleby
Sarah Badel as Ida Nettleby
Rupert Frazer as Lionel Stephens
Judi Bowker as Lady Olivia Lilburn
John J. Carney as Jarvis
Ann Castle as Lady Mildred Stamp