Gosford Park

Murder by Manners

Main Cast: Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Emily Watson

Director: Robert Altman

If you’re looking for a traditional mystery, look elsewhere. This sly take on the old-fashioned English murder mystery at a stately manor is really about society, and the stark line between the rich and their servants. But in the portrayal of this relationship, the movie succeeds quite admirably. The plot (if I may use the term loosely): the lord of the manor has called a number of relations and their friends and hangers-on down to his house for a hunt. These people arrive with their own servants, who are taken in and shown around the “under” mansion, or at least where they must stay when not called upon by the rich.

The hunt does indeed take place, something happens other than just birds being shot down, and the tangle of relations between the various people are slowly developed. Many have a reason to dislike their host, and he does indeed end up dead. But does the movie focus on the murder? Not really. It stays with the servants and the nobles, and how the death affects them. Indeed, an inspector arrives and noses around. At first you might think he is acting like a bumbler in order to trick confessions out of the suspects. But, no, he really is a bumbler. This is nice twist and drives home again the point of the movie: not a mystery, but a drama.

I kinda like this. It is slow and not for those who love action flicks. But if you want a pleasant few hours on studying human nature, this one is right for you.

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