Set in 1960s Hungary, this drama depicts the unusual relationship between two women: a well-to-do novelist (Martina Gedeck, The Lives of Others) and her poor, elderly maid (Helen Mirren, The Queen). Now playing nationwide.
Director István Szabó’s Mephisto scooped the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1982, so it’s great to welcome his return to form in this elegant drama. Set in 1960s Hungary, The Door relates the unlikely relationship between two women. Magda is a wealthy novelist (played by a superb Martina Gedeck), and Emerence her lowly maid, (a blistering performance by Helen Mirren). The leads are actresses' actresses and well-suited to what is in essence a rather old-fashioned character-driven drama.
Based on the novel by Hungarian author Magda Szabó, The Door never quite escapes a weighty theatricality, but nonetheless remains a powerful tale, powerfully told by two performers at the top of their game. The developing friendship between these two very different women is handled with great care and masterful craft. What would stretch believability to breaking point in the hands of a lesser director and actors is here made poignant, powerful and provocative.
Szabó’s deliberate and classic direction is perfectly complemented by Elemer Ragalyi’s cinematography, which underscores the majesty, drama and tragedy to be found in seemingly mundane and ordinary lives. For lovers of fine acting and intelligent, adult drama, The Door is akin to an evening at the theatre watching Dame Helen present Chekhov – you know you’re in safe hands. There’s no shock of the new here, just the delight to be had revelling in classic drama classily told.