Retro Heaven

The Dangerous Edge

A Graham Greene Documentary…

grrFor those of us who find modern day television are dreary bore then what better, more uplifting visual resource can there be than YouTube? There is much that is bad about the World Wide Web but the variety of long lost but not forgotten films, documentaries and interviews available on YouTube is not one of them. Tonight, as I searched for some old footage on Graham Greene I came across this wonderful documentary split into four parts (I suspect there should be more?) on the quite remarkable life of a remarkable man and author. And he was remarkable.

There can be few programmes in which both Kim Philby and Nicholas Elliott (both of MI6 fame) are interviewed, though not in the same room I hasten to add! Add to that Auberon Waugh, John Le Carré and Anthony Burgess and you have the quintessential author’s guide to Greene, his work and life.

The interview with Philby is, as one would suspect, captivating. It is a chance to see a master spy talking about a master author and an opportunity to hear both Philby and Elliott’s account of Greene’s brief career in the British Secret Service which both sets the scene for Green’s life and one of its more amusing periods.

Elliott discusses the infamous moment when Greene tells him of his concern at the lack of contraceptives in his posting to Sierra Leone whilst Philby tells of Greene’s refusal to inherit Philby’s post as West African Chief of Station and subsequent resignation. Elliott, rather amusingly tells us that whilst he “didn’t think Greene was God’s own gift to the Secret Service, it was the Service’s great gift to English literature to post him to Freetown”!

Catholicism played a huge part in both Greene’s life and his books and the documentary provides interesting interviews and retrospectives on how Greene battled with his faith and his penchant for women. As Father Matthew Rigney described it, “he doesn’t moralise it but presents a picture of sadness”. That sense of deep, dark despair is a central theme in ‘Greeneland’ and for anyone who wishes to better understand Greene and his troubled mind then this fascinating documentary will go someway in helping to explain it.

Further Greene related posts can be found in my review of Pico Iyer’s book The Man Within My Head  in Greene’s defence of John Le Carré  and his friendship with Norman Douglas.



Categories: Retro Heaven

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