Sebastian (1968)

Article 3444 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-10-2010
Posting Date: 1-18-2011
Directed by David Greene
Featuring Dirk Bogarde, Susannah York, Lilli Palmer
Country: UK
What it is: Romantic comedy

A woman takes a strange job in the civil service working under a brilliant but eccentric mathematician. She turns out to be working in a department that breaks secret codes, and she finds herself romantically tangled with her boss.

Yes, this is a romantic comedy, and though the “comedy” tag could be debated (it has some funny moments, but overall I’m not sure it’s a comedy), it does follow the patterns of that genre. It’s the milieu, characters, and situations that set this one apart. The secret-code breaking scenario puts everyone in a somewhat paranoid atmosphere, which is certainly not conducive to romance, and that’s one of the themes of the movie. Also, Dirk Bogarde’s eccentric title character’s distracted nature further impedes the romance, and the woman’s attempts to “fix” him also plays into the story. I found the movie quite interesting, but I’m also a puzzleholic with some mathematical background, and I think that helps somewhat to appreciate this one. The fantastic content is a little hard to pin down, and it may not really qualify. On one hand, we have a genius with a specialized talent, which might fall marginally into the area of science fiction. Furthermore, the espionage angle puts the movie in the spy genre, and that often juts up against science fiction. Furthermore, there is a scene where the mathematician has been drugged that plays like a bad nightmare, which adds a bit of horror to the proceedings. Still, none of these are really strong enough to do anything but have me consign this one to the realm of marginalia.


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