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David BruceA woman is placed in a spiritual dilemma as she struggles with her continuing love for her former lover in the face of the realization that she is fatally ill.
Review by David Bruce
This page was created in July 1999,
and was updated on May 16, 2005
Directed by Neil Jordan
Writing credits: Graham Greene (novel), Neil Jordan (screenplay)

Ralph Fiennes as Maurice Bendrix
Julianne Moore as Sarah Miles
Stephen Rea as Henry Miles
Ian Hart as Mr. Parkis
Sam Bould as Lance Parkis
Jason Isaacs as Father Smythe
James Bolam as Mr. Savage
Deborah Findlay as Miss Smythe

Produced by Neil Jordan, Kathy Sykes (co-producer), Stephen Woolley
Original music by Michael Nyman
Cinematography by Roger Pratt

What to do with
broken promises to God?

The End of the Affair is arguably Graham Greene's most autobiographical novel, taking as its inspiration his adulterous love affair with the American Catherine Walston, who was married to a wealthy farmer. The book is dedicated to her. Greene's biographer, Norman Sherry, has called their relationship "the greatest literary affair of this century."

This is an incredible film (it was made into a movie once before in 1955). The topic is timeless in its question: What to do with broken promises to God?


Neil Jordan, who first read the Graham Greene original many years ago, believes it is also his finest novel. "It's the simplest of stories, but the dramatic core is very strong, and its focus on the irrational is very relevant to contemporary life.

"I read it again seven or eight years ago," continues Jordan. "I saw that it would make a very interesting movie. I was really interested in the basic plot, that the structure of this love affair was seen so differently by the two protagonists."

Surprisingly, adapting the complexities of this intense novel for the screen wasn't as difficult as one might anticipate. "Greene is great at moral dilemmas, and specifically human dilemmas," says Jordan. "What I needed to do was bring the human drama to the surface and find a way of making the whole thing understandable and believable in human terms."
The character of Bendrix was an amalgam of both real and literary sources. Jordan created half of the tortured novelist from the Bendrix that Greene had written, but also sculpted him around Greene's life as well. "I wanted the movie to be as much a portrait of a writer as anything else," notes the director.
1904-91, He was an English novelist and a Catholic convert with intense moral concerns. He wrote novels that are essentially parables of the damned. Those that are thrillers, e.g., Orient Express (1932), he called "entertainments." His major works are Brighton Rock (1938) and The Heart of the Matter (1948). A superb journalist, he set novels in sites of topical interest, e.g., The Quiet American (1955) in Indochina. He is also known for his short stories, plays, film criticism, and film scripts, including The Third Man (1950).
GREENE was one of the most read authors of this last century because he was so brutally honest about the self-serving nature of most of our life's choices.


Broken promises to God often plays out in our lives like the television show, "Let's Make a Deal." But God is not like us. While we try to negotiate away our lives with bargaining chips, God is less impressed with our deal making strategies than the affairs of our heart. Deal making is always about the dealmaker, not the God relationship. God is reduced to an observer. The real battle lies within and can only be solved by submitting to what we can't change. Then, and only then, are we able to hear our own truth and allow God's intervention.

The interesting parts in this movie are the autobiographical sketches of the author, Graham Greene.
I wonder now how much Green wrote himself into one of his other novels with the same life themes, "The Quiet American," which also became a Hollywood movie.

In The Quiet American, Green wrote about a seasoned (and very cynical) journalist by the name of Fowler who was stationed in Saigon during France's struggle with the Vietminh.
I bought this book from street children during a trip to Saigon in 1998. Since the action takes place in and around Saigon, it makes sense to hawk the book there. They Xerox the book and sell it to tourists for five dollars. It was a valuable read for me. I learned that people who prefer life as a spectator sport seldom get away with it.

Fowler was a strong believer in being only a spectator to life's action. His motto: never get involved.
He manages to live this way until life gets too close and personal. He then finds himself forced to violate his own rule. He justifies the killing of his good friend in order to stop the escalation of the war. A by-product of this action just happens to be the fact that he then "wins the girl." His sudden participation in life was not purely humanitarian.

Fowler learns that "suffering is not increased by numbers: one body can contain all the suffering the world can feel.
I had judged like a journalist in terms of quantity and I had betrayed my own principles; I had become engaged in life..., and it seemed to me that no decision would ever be simple again." Welcome to life, Fowler. Welcome to the real world of ambiguity, confusion, doubt, pain, disappointment, death of dreams and loss. Welcome to all that challenges, compels, transforms, and forms us into real human beings. There are no easy answers. Nothing is ever clear. Life is never what we expect it to be. As long as we try to side step the real issues we remain in perpetual confusion and agony of soul. Truth is the only road to freedom.

This theme of "how much to get involved" streams through most, if not all, of Greene's novels. I suspect it may have been the greatest conflict in his own life.
I can't really say, however, because after reading his autobiography, I didn't have much insight into his character - he manages to not "get too involved" in his own truth telling. But maybe he was one of the most widely read authors of this last century because he was so brutally honest about the self-serving nature of most of our life's choices.

An interesting epilogue to the "Quiet American" is that just like Fowler and the French, the United States didn't want to get too involved with the Vietnamese either. Our promises in 1962 to stick with them and see them through to victory, meant little more than that when we left them stranded and without hope by April 30 of '75. If you don't want the commitment, don't say the words.


Subject: Comment on End of an Affair
Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2000
From: "Laury Morrison"

I thought this movie was very enjoyable. It had depth, the struggle was real and tragic. Love between a woman and a man really can be like that - the most compelling thing in your life apart from a relationship with God. I also thought the sex scenes were way to explicit and spoiled what could have been a good movie for my children to watch to learn how to struggle with real issues. Laury Morrison

Response: Yes it was an adult picture. I think that if it were toned down it still would not be for kids. Too "mochy." I think the subject would bore them.

Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000
From: Alice

I saw this movie three times and each time I cried. I felt the love she had for her lover and the same time the greater love she had for God. It's funny how we battle
with our feelings that we have for certain people that we shouldn't have, because we know it's wrong in God's word. It is hard, I know. I will continue to pray.

Subject: Hey, love this web site!
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2000
From: Carol

I really appreciate what you are doing. Just wanted to let you know that sometimes, the pages are hard to read - for example, the end of the affair pages made my eyes water.

Thanks. I will continue to pray for you and your ministry...

End of the Affair © 1999 Columbia TriStar. All Rights Reserved.