First Slovenian production
26 January 2022
Sally Potter (1949) is a British film director and screenwriter, best known for her film work. The feature film that made her famous was Orlando (1992), based on the novel by Virginia Woolf and starring Tilda Swinton in the title role. She is also the author of Rage (2009), the first film in history to premiere (in seven parts) on mobile phones.
The Party, written and directed by Potter, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2017, and was presented the Best Film award by the German film critics. Shortly afterwards, in November of the same year, it was selected for the Liffe Festival in Ljubljana (with the Slovenian title Zabava). The film is shot in black and white; the setting is limited to a few rooms of fairly modest upper-middle-class London house; the duration is relatively short for the feature film genre, just over 70 minutes, and the impression is that we are watching the action in real time; there are seven characters and all seven roles are played by a top international cast (two British actresses, one British actor, two American actresses, one Irish actor and one Swiss actor).
The stage adaptation of the film, which was compared by a reviewer of the prestigious American film magazine Variety to two films, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Mike Nichols, based on the play by Edward Albee, and Luis Buñuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, was written by Potter in 2018. Genre-wise, the play is categorized as a black comedy.
The party is thrown in the home of Janet, who has just reached the highest point of her political career – she has become the Shadow Health Minister. She and her husband, a scientist, invite their closest circle of friends to the party. These include Janet’s confidante and her husband, Janet’s friend who is a professor of so-called women studies, Janet’s pregnant wife, who is a famous chef, and Janet’s work colleague and her husband, an attractive young investment banker, who arrives without his wife and announces that she will be joining them later.
Witty, intelligent, fast-paced dialogue touches on the kind of themes one expects to find in a circle of educated, well-informed and eloquent people with coherent views: politics, the crisis of the health system, democracy, feminism… Their rational and cultured mode is overwhelmed by emotions when Janet’s husband chooses his wife’s party to announce two pieces of news: that he is terminally ill and that he is going to divorce his wife and spend his remaining days with Janet’s aforementioned colleague. His state of health and his devastating decision have a fatal impact on the party. The growing tension of further developments, new revelations and confessions, and above all the realisation of the fragility of seemingly strong relationships and alliances, culminate in a startling final twist, which the more deductively alert viewer could have picked up on earlier.