Not as well known as it should be, John Schlesinger’s Darling is very much a product of the mid-1960s, yet its themes are entirely contemporary as to have resonance with audiences today.
Diana Scott is a beautiful young woman living in London. In order to fulfill her modeling and acting aspirations, Diana decides to do whatever is necessary, and finds herself increasingly socialising in circles which can offer her the fame and fortune she desires…
Whilst the idea of a young woman sleeping with people in order to get ahead in her career may have been salacious in the 1960s, it is not such a shocking proposal these days. What makes Darling resonate with more modern audiences is Diana’s quest for fame, and her manipulation of the media. It is something we see emanating from celebrity magazines, websites and television shows everyday. In one sense, it is heartening to know that this was also occurring fifty years ago.
Julie Christie certainly deserved her Oscar award for her portrayal of the title character. As Diana she is enchantingly beautiful, yet there is a ruthlessness to her character that quickly dissuades any warmth one may feel towards her. Christie is utterly believable in this role; the necessary coldness she displays sets the tone for the entire film. Diana narrates the film, as if she is giving an interview. This device works incredibly well, depicting the disparity of actuality of events and the spin she wishes to put on them.
Dirk Bogarde offers a convincing portrayal of Robert Gold, the one man Diana actually loves. Although he has his flaws, he is one of the more redeeming characters in Darling. Laurence Harvey is excellent as the well-connected Miles. His character is quite believable, and brings a healthy dose of humour to proceedings.
The Oscar-winning costume design, as well as the cinematography offers such a beautiful aesthetic, which contrasts perfectly with the ugliness of the narrative. As social commentary, Darling works as well today as it did in the 1960s. The film perfectly exhibits the hollowness of Diana’s lifestyle. The audience will be left perhaps in awe of the protagonist’s beauty, but certainly not of her life.
Overall, Darling is a gem of 1960s British cinema; a film well worth discovering.
Darling was shown at the British Film Institute, as part of the Screen Epiphanies season and in conjunction with Elle Magazine. It was introduced by Roland Mouret.