Betrayal (1983 film)

Betrayal (1983 film)

Betrayal is Harold Pinter's film adaptation of his semi-autobiographical 1978 play Betrayal. The 1983 film was produced by Sam Spiegel and directed by David Jones. Pinter based the drama on an affair he had in 1962-69 with television presenter Joan Bakewell, who was married to the producer-director Michael Bakewell.

Plot and concept

The storyline follows significant moments in the seven-year extramarital affair of art gallery owner Emma (Patricia Hodge) with literary agent Jerry (Jeremy Irons), the best friend of her husband Robert (Ben Kingsley), a London publisher. With titles such as "Two years earlier" and "Three years earlier," nine sequences are shown in reverse chronological order with Emma and Jerry meeting for the first time at the conclusion of the film.

The film received rave reviews from Vincent Canby and other critics. Roger Ebert wrote:

The absolutely brilliant thing about Betrayal is that it is a love story told backward. There is a lot in this movie that is wonderful -- the performances, the screenplay by Harold Pinter -- but what makes it all work is the structure... The Betrayal structure strips away all artifice. It shows, heartlessly, that the very capacity for love itself is sometimes based on betraying not only other loved ones, but even ourselves. The movie is told mostly in encounters between two of the characters; all three are not often on screen together, and we never meet Jerry's wife. These people are smart and verbal and they talk a lot -- too much, maybe, because there is a peculiarly British reserve about them that sometimes prevents them from quite saying what they mean. They lie and they half-lie. There are universes left unspoken in their unfinished sentences. They are all a little embarrassed that the messy urges of sex are pumping away down there beneath their civilized deceptions. The performances are perfectly matched. Ben Kingsley (of Gandhi) plays Robert, the publisher, with such painfully controlled fury that there are times when he actually is frightening. Jeremy Irons, as Jerry, creates a man whose desires are stronger than his convictions, even though he spends a lot of time talking about his convictions and almost none acknowledging his desires. Patricia Hodge, as Emma, loves them both and hates them both and would have led a much happier life if they had not been her two choices. But how can you know that when, in life, you're required by the rules to start at the beginning?


Distributed by Twentieth-Century Fox International Classics (USA), it was first screened in movie theaters in New York in February 1983.

The Seinfeld episode The Betrayal, telecast November 20, 1997 was inspired by this movie. All of the events in the episode occur backwards with the end at the beginning and vice versa.


  • Jeremy Irons as Jerry
  • Ben Kingsley as Robert
  • Patricia Hodge as Emma
  • Avril Elgar as Mrs. Banks
  • Ray Marioni as Waiter
  • Caspar Norman as Sam
  • Chloe Billington as Charlotte, age 5
  • Hannah Davies as Charlotte, age 9
  • Michael König as Ned, age 2
  • Alexander McIntosh as Ned, age 5


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


External links

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