Another Country (1984): Tale of Gay Spies, Starring Rupert Everett and Colin Firth (Gay Cinema)

As directed by Marek Kanievska, Julian Mitchell’s play-to-screen Another Country is elegant and literate, and yet not entirely satisfying film.

The tale fictionalizes the lives of Guy Burgess (in the story called Guy Bennett and played by Rupert Everett) and Donald Maclean, members of the privileged classes who turned to Communism and lived double lives as Soviet agents.

Taking dramatic license, the story depicts an unhappy love affair between two schoolboys that ended with severe political consequences, specifically the effect of the rigid English public-school system on their sexual identities.

Director John Schlesinger (Oscar winner for “Midnight Cowboy”) tackled the same subject in “An Englishman Abroad,” penned by Alan Bennett, based on actress Coral Browne’s tale of her encounters with Guy Burgess, and starring Alan Bates.

The beginning of the film, set in contemporary Moscow, is rather weak. The old Bennett is about to be interviewed by a female reporter (Betsy Brantley), and the film implies that ever since he defected (in the early 1950s), he has not been in contact with any Western journalist or politician.

Rest of the story unfolds as a flashback to his life in the 1930s, specifically his friendship with Tommy Judd (Colin Firth), who attends school against his will, and is already a Marxist.  Anna Massey plays Bennett’s oppressive mother and the very young and handsome Cary Elwes is cast as his first love, Harcourt.

The dialogue is quite intelligent, but the movie still feels like a play.  Even so, “Another Country” served as a showcase for Britain’s new, emerging acting talent.  Both Rupert Everett and Colin Firth would establish themselves as Hollywood and international stars, though the career of the former would suffer from his coming out, typecast for the most part to playing witty gay personalities.

Director Kanievska’s next film was the disappointing feature, “Less Than Zero,” in 1987, starring Robert Downey Jr.


If you want to know more about gay directors and gay-themed films, please read my book:

Gay Directors, Gay Films? By Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press, August 2015).