Betrayal (1983 film)

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Betrayal film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Jones
Produced by Sam Spiegel
Written by Harold Pinter (play and screenplay)
Starring Jeremy Irons
Ben Kingsley
Patricia Hodge
CinematographyMike Fash
Edited by John Bloom
Distributed by Virgin Group (United Kingdom)
20th Century Fox (United States)
Release date
  • 19 February 1983 (1983-02-19)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Language English

Betrayal is a 1983 British drama film adaptation of Harold Pinter's 1978 play of the same name. With a semi-autobiographical screenplay by Pinter, the film was produced by Sam Spiegel and directed by David Jones. It was critically well received. Distributed by 20th Century Fox International Classics (USA), it was first screened in movie theaters in New York in February 1983. [1]



Betrayal follows significant moments in the seven-year extramarital affair of art gallery owner Emma with literary agent Jerry, the best friend of her husband Robert, a London publisher. Nine sequences are shown in reverse chronological order with Emma and Jerry meeting for the first time at the conclusion of the film.



Screenwriter Harold Pinter based the drama on his seven-year (1962-69) clandestine affair with television presenter Joan Bakewell, who was married to producer-director Michael Bakewell. At the time, Pinter was married to actress Vivien Merchant. [2] [3]


New York Times film critic Vincent Canby said Harold Pinter is "justifiably celebrated" and that "nothing he has written for the stage has ever been as simply and grandly realized on the screen as his Betrayal". He applauded the performances of the three lead actors, the direction, and the meaningful application of reverse chronology, and summed up that "I can't think of another recent film that is simultaneously so funny, so moving and so rigorously unsentimental. ... This is pure Pinter well served by collaborators." [4] Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert similarly commented that the film's reverse chronology, far from being a gimmick, is the key element to its brilliance. He gave the movie four stars. [5]

Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader , by contrast, argued that "The reverse-order gimmick of Harold Pinter's screenplay seems meant to revitalize some trite and tedious material—the breakup of a love affair—yet the expected literary games don't materialize: the film plods backward in time with the same dull linearity it would have moving forward." He praised Kingsley's performance but gave the film an overall negative assessment. [6] Geoff Andrew likewise wrote in Time Out , "Hodge is fine, Kingsley tries his best, and Irons is as tight-assed as ever. But it's all so uncinematic as to make one wonder why it was ever made in the first place." [7] Variety commented that Patricia Hodge gave a much less compelling performance than the other two leads but summed up the film as "an absorbing, quietly amusing chamber drama for those attuned to Harold Pinter’s way with words." [8]


Pinter's screenplay was nominated for a 1983 Academy Award for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Gale 256, 415). [9]

The film also won the National Board of Review Award for Best Film (tied with Terms of Endearment).

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  1. Susan Hollis Merritt, Pinter in Play: Critical Strategies and the Plays of Harold Pinter (1990; Durham and London: Duke UP, 1995) 236, 300. The first film reviews of such New York commercial screenings cited by Merritt date from 20 February 1983 (236-39).
  2. Michael Billington, Harold Pinter, rev. and expanded ed. (1996; London: Faber and Faber, 2007) 264–67.
  3. Joan Bakewell, The Centre of the Bed (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2003). ISBN   0-340-82310-0. (Two chapters deal with the relationship and affair with Pinter.)
  4. Canby, Vincent (February 20, 1983). "Pinter's 'Betrayal,' Directed by David Jones". The New York Times . Archived from the original on January 30, 2013. Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  5. Ebert, Roger (March 18, 1983). "Betrayal Movie Review". . Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  6. Kehr, Dave. "Betrayal". Chicago Reader . Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  7. Andrew, Geoff. "Betrayal". Time Out . Archived from the original on August 11, 2020.
  8. "Betrayal". Variety . December 31, 1982. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  9. Academy Awards Database Archived 2012-01-14 at the Wayback Machine , accessed September 14, 2007.