Arriving on Blu-ray on October 27, ViaVision present the latest two volumes of their Imprint series with the pairing of the 1951 and 1994 adaptations of The Browning Version.

Telling the story of Andrew Crockerr-Harris, a stern schoolmaster at a prestigious English public school, both films chronicle one man’s midlife crisis as he comes to learn that throughout his two decades of teaching he isn’t liked, and he’s subsequently been forced into an early retirement.

It’s a remarkable story, which is as equally endearing as it is solemn, and with the passage of time between the two versions, the Crocker-Harris story is personified in two very different eras to juxtaposing effect.

Legendary British actor Sir Michael Redgrave (The Lady Vanishes) assumes the role in the 1951 version, portraying the character with a heartbreaking sense of stoicism, whereas the incredible Albert Finney (Scrooge, Erin Brockovich) gives a more nuanced and subtle interpretation in the 1994 adaptation, which was directed by Mike Figgis one year before he made his Oscar-winning film Leaving Las Vegas.

Produced by Ridley Scott (Alien) and co-starring Matthew Modine, Greta Scacchi, Julian Sands and Michael Gambon, the ’94 film is cut from the same fabric as titles like Goodbye Mr Chips and Dead Poets Society. And while it was received with critical praise at the time of release, the film had fallen into obscurity until now.

Read an interview with star Matt Damon and writer Ben Affleck on Ridley Scott’s latest, The Last Duel.

To celebrate this beautiful new Blu-ray release, Hollywood actor Matthew Modine – who stars in the upcoming fourth season of Stranger Things and is directing a film called The Rocking Horsemen – took time out of his busy schedule to discuss working on the film, and what this re-release means to him.
I think it’s terrific. I only wish Albert were here to answer your questions. He’s really the star of the film and deserves the attention.

The late, great Albert Finney gave a very nuanced performance as Andrew Crocker-Howard. Can you describe your time working alongside him?
I really did the film to give me a second opportunity to work with Albert. We had done the film Orphans together. I’d seen him in the play in London, which he subsequently won the Laurence Olivier Award for his performance. During filming of Orphans we became friends. When I heard he was doing The Browning Version, and there was a role I might be fit for, I threw my hat in the ring and was luckily cast. Personally, I think it was a difficult role for Albert and required great focus for him. Not because he couldn’t play the role with his arms tied behind his back. He could have. But Crocker Harris is SO different from Albert. Albert was quick to laugh and loved a joke. Loved women. So he was really playing a character very different from his nature. I loved our scene together in the library. He’s lovely in that scene.

The Browning Version – Albert Finney, Gretta Scachi

Was there a sense of ostracisation being the only American actor in the cast?
No, not at all.There was great camaraderie amongst the cast. But teatime card games could become quite competitive. I learned things about English gentlemen I didn’t ever imagine. I also learned some colourful rhyming slang. All in all, a great learning experience.

Were you familiar with Terence Rattigan’s work prior to making the film, and did your film use the 1951 adaptation or the stage play as its point of reference?
No. Unfortunately Rattigan is not very well known in the US. I don’t know what process the director, writer, or the producers went through in developing the script. I hadn’t seen the ’51 version before and I saw it subsequently. Terrific movie! Michael Redgrave is a wonderful actor.

The character dynamics are considerably different and more subtle to the previous adaptation. Can you discuss Mike Figgis’s and the cast’s motivation behind the way the story was told?
Well, we live in a very different time from the play was written and performed. A different time from when the first version was filmed. The difference is, not the subject matter, but the consciousness of the players. Our production was made up of crew members, producers, performers, a director – that all grew up post World War II. They grew up and came of age in the 1960s, which was part of the sexual revolution, birth control pills, new musical genres, the use of drugs, the Vietnam war, the murder of JFK, MLK Jr, and RFK. These types of global events were fun, horrifying, sad, and often times great, and created cynicism towards political systems and institutions of education. This being a given, the awareness the audience brings with them when they sit down to watch a film or play is quite different from the age in which it was written.

“The story still resonates and works because we are able to relate to Latin being a dying language – because, in its own way, it’s no different than the death of a fax machine or an answering machine.”

A decade ago those machines were in every office and home and now you have difficulty finding one – except in a landfill. We also empathise with Crocker Harris because he’s aware that his wife is cheating on him – we relate to that kind of pain on many different levels of personal betrayal. He’s also being pushed out of his job – because what he knows, and teaches, is no longer relevant. So he’s like a worker in a job whose skills are no longer needed and they’re being pushed out of theirs workplace – like a person being replaced by a machine.

You’ve been fortunate to have worked with many incredible directors. How would you describe Mike Figgis’s as a director?
Figgis, as I recall, kind of directed like a jazz musician. I took my lead from Finney, Micheal Gambon and Julian Sands. They were each incredible to work with and watch perform.

Within the a short amount of time you had made this film as well as Short Cuts, Bye Bye Love and Cutthroat Island. Where did The Browning Version schedule fit into these productions, and were you exhausted?
I’m not sure where The Browning Version fit in amongst those. I do enjoy my work, so it never feels like work. So it’s easy to jump with inbounding enthusiasm from one gig to the next.

Looking back on The Browning Version, were there any particular lessons or personal experiences that you took away from it?
I’ve had the great pleasure to work in Britain several times. It’s always a pleasure for me. I don’t mind the rain and the cold, and an English summer is quite unique. The sky is so beautiful and the clouds rest so close to the earth. The Browning Version was one of those special summers in Dorset. I was with my wife and two children and our summer there holds special memories for each of them as well.

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