Absolute Hell

Watch Absolute Hell

  • 1991
  • 2 hr

Absolute Hell is a 1991 British made-for-television film directed by Anthony Page, based on the play The Pink Room by Rodney Ackland. The movie stars Judi Dench and Bill Nighy in lead roles. Set in post World War II, in a nightclub called The Continental, the movie takes us through the lives of a group of bohemian residents. The club acts as a backdrop for the movie and we are introduced to various characters who frequent it. The plot takes a number of turns through these characters, with different storylines merging into one another, revealing the complexities of the lives they live.

The club, once a vibrant place, is now a decaying place, with a sense of despair creeping in. The patrons are a broken lot. The war has robbed them of their innocence, and they are left feeling disillusioned and empty. The movie is a reflection of the society’s despair of an era that came to know extreme violence and devastating loss like never before, and how the war had forever changed their lives.

The main character of the movie is Christine Foskett (played by Judi Dench), a former socialite who now runs the club. Christine is an alcoholic and struggles with the pain of a lost love. Her character is complex, and she is at times a kind-hearted boss, one moment caring about the staff, the next moment barking orders. She is the heart and soul of the club, but at the same time, the movie portrays the enigmatic woman's battles with depression and unbearable self-loathing.

Bill Nighy, on the other hand, plays Hugh Marriner, a writer with a quick wit and a dry sense of humor. His character is part of the group that frequents the club. He is unmarried and is a bit of a mystery, as Christine is drawn to him. Their relationship undergoes a gamut of emotions; at times they are close, playful even, then distant, as a secret threatens to come to light.

The other members of the cast also come alive in their roles, displaying shades of vulnerability and pain. Richard E. Grant plays Maurice, a struggling writer with a penchant for debauchery. He is always on the verge of self-destruction, and one feels the pain of his character. His bond with Christine, his best friend, is genuine, and he can’t help but feel protective towards her, though his own demons continue to plague him.

The movie deals with themes of sexuality, addiction, and self-hatred, which were taboo subjects at the time. There are scenes of gay relationships between the men in the movie which caused a stir when the movie was released. The movie treats these subjects with a maturity that is commendable even by today’s standards.

The film’s director, Anthony Page, effectively captures the tone and texture of the post-war era through his cinematography, alternating bright colors with darker tones that lend an air of melancholy to the entire proceedings. The music in the movie is used sparingly but effectively.

Absolute Hell is a criticism of the old British class system, in which the wealthy and influential were shielded from the harsh realities of life, and are happy to continue with their lives even if it means the sacrifices of those who are less fortunate. It is especially evident in the sub-plot regarding the political parties of the time, with Christine and her group of friends watching in horror as the government of the day sends working-class young men to war without a thought.

In conclusion, Absolute Hell is a movie that leaves a long-lasting impression on the viewer. The acting by the ensemble cast is exceptional, especially Judi Dench, who proves yet again why she is an acting legend. The dialogue is sharp, and the filmmaking is top-notch. The movie is a multi-layered look at a society that is losing its way in the aftermath of a war that has left them bewildered, reflecting on the loss of their youth, the loss of their loved ones, and the loss of faith in a better future. The movie is a must-watch for fans of Judi Dench, Bill Nighy or anyone who loves a story with complex characters and an engaging plot.

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  • Release Date
  • Runtime
    2 hr