Director – Marek Losey, Screenplay – Tim Whitnall, Based on His Play The Sociable Plover, Producers – Christopher Granier-Deferre & John Schwab, Photography – George Richmond, Music – Debbie Wiseman, Visual Effects Supervisor – Jim Allen, Production Design – Nick Palmer. Production Company – Poisson Rouge Pictures Ltd/Solution Films
Alex Macqueen (Roy Tunt), Philip Campbell (Dave John)
Roy Tunt sets up in a lonely hut on the marshes intent on doing some bird watching. His idyll is interrupted by the arrival of another man Dave John. The two men could not be more apart in nature – Roy controlled and milquetoast, Dave rough and streetwise. A slow companionship grows between the two as Roy explains the nature of bird watching and offers the starving Dave some of his sandwiches. Police helicopters also appears to be searching the marshes for a wanted criminal and Roy then sees that Dave is hiding a gun. As the situation in the hut develops, the secrets the two men hold start to come out.
The Hide was a directorial debut for Marek Losey, the grandson of no less than Joseph Losey, director of celebrated efforts such as The Servant (1963), The Go-Between (1971) and The Romantic Englishwoman (1975) and a handful of genre films, including the children’s fable The Boy with Green Hair (1948), the remake of M (1951), the Hammer film The Damned (1963) and the comic-book adaptation Modesty Blaise (1966). The Hide is based on The Sociable Plover (2005), a play by Tim Whitnall who also writes the film’s script.
It would appear that the film has been very closely based on the play. The entire drama is contained to a single setting – a bird watching hut on the marshes in the English countryside, while the drama takes place in a single act and consists only of the interplay of dialogue between two men. There are no other characters or locations and the film rarely leaves the hut – only on a couple of occasions where one or the other ventures out the door. The two characters are deliberately diametrically opposed – anonymous bespectacled Alex Macqueen who has led a nowhere life and seems obsessed with trivial details and order up against tattooed Philip Campbell who secrets a gun on his person and it is implied is on the run from the law. One seems the perfect anonymous anal retentive bureaucrat or accountant, the other someone who has lived by his wits on the wrong side of life.
The film that The Hide most resembles in approach is Victor Salva’s The Nature of the Beast (1995), which took place as a road trip between mild-mannered Lance Henriksen and rough diamond Eric Roberts who may be a serial killer. Both films take place in the psychological interplay between the two characters and the revelations of secrets that both men are hiding that gradually come to the fore. Both films also come with a surprise reversal of the expectations that we have made about the characters throughout.
I was not even sure if I was going to review The Hide as a genre film up until after the one-hour point where the film takes a surprise twist for the grisly and horrific with a series of revelations that throw expectation considerably on its head. It is here that the film starts to work as horror (even if all of it is only implied and happens off-screen). The performances and writing of the characters carry the film most effectively. Indeed, it is a perfect minimalist film that works all through the build-up, characters and subtleties of nuance. The only complaint might be that the other character fails to get enough in the way of revelations about their purpose in being there – the way they are initially shown to be sinister only adds up to misdirection and the twist revelation regarding why they are there is given scanty attention and fails to make an interesting enough revelation.