Title: The Collector
Country: UK, USA
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: William Wyler
based on the novel by John Fowles
Music: Maurice Jarre
William Wyler’s outstanding psychological chamber drama is a unique two-hander between a young butterfly collector Freddie Clegg (Stamp) and his victim, Miranda Grey (Eggar), an art school student with whom he has been obsessed since their school days in Reading, England.
A windfall falls upon to a lonesome Freddie, an introvert bank clerk fascinated by entomology, using the money he has won from a lottery, he buys an estate in the remote countryside, where he lives alone with (almost) no exterior interference. Thus facilities his plan to kidnap Miranda and locks her up in the basement which functions as a breeding ground for her to get to know about him and eventually fall in love with him, yet it is horse sense that this is only his wishful thinking. After the initial shock, Miranda starts to reason with him as Freddie appears to be not life-threatening to her, in fact, he is awfully kind, willing to provide her anything except freedom, finally they reach a four-week agreement under the circumstances, but it is totally at the mercy of Freddie’s whimsy whether he will keep his promise, at the same time, Miranda pits her wits against her captor of every possible chance to escape or seek help. The mind game is played out with gusto and suspense even though viewers are fully aware that Miranda’s nightmare cannot arrive its finish line that easy.
Meanwhile, a tentative proceeding of mutual-understanding and affection-naturing is conducted during the period, Miranda begins to paint with Freddie as the live model, and Freddie shows her his butterfly collection, a cheery occasion has been shaped up until the agreed day of Miranda’s release, it is at that moment, the imminent feeling of despair hits hard on her, she might never get out of it alive. In the ensuing days, she puts to good use of everything (from participating a sincere debate of art, as a sign of her own willingness to communicate with him in a deeper level, to the last resort, sex), to please and convince him that she is in complete submission to be what he wants her to become. Only if she were a better actress, a final blood-spurting resistance fails because she is not a cold-blooded slayer at any rate.
THE COLLECTOR sparks off a incredible duel between Stamp and Eggar: the former, impeccably embodies his twisted psyche with his good-look and inviting timidity, terrifying but in a rather charming poise, even manages to generate a certain commiseration for such an unlovable role, a psychopath who doesn’t resort to violence but beguilingly tortures his prey to the last breath with a tyrannical cruelty; the latter, who is honoured with an Oscar nomination (together with two other nominations for Wyler and its screenplay), counter-acts Stamp’s vicious perverseness with her exhaustive range of portraying a prisoner inflicted by Stockholm syndrome and soon cornered at the ends of her wits, an Agnus Dei figure succumbs to the pure evil of our world. Both are supremely impressive achievements and acknowledged by Cannes that year.
Wyler admirably resists any poetic justice to dampen the staggering ending which is diametrically in opposition to any major studio offerings. Underlined by Jarre’s emotion-channeling score, THE COLLECTOR has never slumped into a tiresome drag, not for a minute, on top of its minimal milieu and an almost 2-hour length, it withstands the test of time and turns out to be a thrilling cautionary tale, which would only be matched by George Slugger’s equally uncompromising THE VANISHING (1988).