Harold Pinter was responsible for some quite literal British screenplays in the sixties including The Caretaker (1963), Accident (1967), The Quiller Memorandum (1966), The Servant (1963) and of course The Pumpkin Eater (1964) for which he won a British Academy Film Award. Pinter had adapted it from a 1962 novel by Penelope Mortimer. Although the novel had been written in the first person, from the prospective of the leading female character, Pinter changed it to be more about the relationship between a man and wife.
It was Jack Clayton's third feature film and was described as an intellectual soap opera but there's much more to this study of a middle class marriage between the fertile Jo (Anne Bancroft) and her husband Jake Armitage (Peter Finch). Jo was the casualty of two marriages and has a brood of children before she marries Jake, a successful screenwriter. She has all the trappings of a ‘happy life’ including a beautiful home and an affluent lifestyle and with her children tidied away in nurseries and boarding school plenty of free time to socialise with other’s of the moneyed generation (I mean how many people can afford to have a breakdown in Harrods, a luxurious Kensington department store?) But her life is turned upside down when she discovers that her successful husband is having affairs with other women and to make it worse he treats this as normal behaviour for a man in media! This drives Jo into the care of a psychiatrist.
It's similarity with European art movies of the time was made all the more apparent by Anne Bancroft's European looks, even though she was American, also by the French New Wave type soundtrack by George Delerue although Clayton handling of the subject matter can know be seen as typically British. The acting is first rate; Anne Bancroft won the award for Best Actress at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival and the BAFTA for Best Foreign Actress as well as being nominated for Best Actress at the 37th Academy Awards. Peter Finch suits the role of the philandering scriptwriter like a glove with James Mason ideal as the slimy deceived husband who’s wife is having an affair with you know who. My only problem with this intense drama is that it is perhaps a little to long, other than that it’s highly recommended for connoisseur’s of intelligent British movie making in the sixties.