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The Collector

#157 -
The Collector (William Wyler, 1965)

It's difficult to talk about The Collector without mentioning the details of the plot, but since that's especially important in this case, it also makes it difficult to discuss the film without giving away too many things. The film is set in 1960s England. It concerns an unusual young man (Terence Stamp) who kidnaps a beautiful art student (Samantha Eggar) and locks her up in a hidden room in his remote home in the country. He tries to make her as comfortable as possible, but since she is his prisoner, he has very little chance of ever making her fall in love with him. You see, he's chosen her to be his soulmate and he believes that this is the only chance to ever get to know her in the "real world".

There are a few flashbacks which try to explain the man's personality and basic antisocial behavior but they only take up a minute or two. More time is spent showing his love of collecting beautiful butterflies, and it does appear that this woman has become a part of his collection. The main problem for her seems to be that all of his collection, with the exception of one recently-caught specimen, is dead. The film basically is a struggle of wills between the two characters where they negotiate what will happen and when depending on if she gives him a chance and somehow fulfills his desires. She really wants to get back to her life at home and art school, so she basically tries whatever things she can to placate him and get him to let her go. However, he isn't pleased with her if he believes that she's acting to get her way.

The Collector is first and foremost a character study, but it's also a suspense film and there are a few wonderful set pieces involving things such as an overflowing bathtub, a nosy neighbor, pouring rain, a shovel, and the young man's van which seems almost as creepy as he is. There is also an interesting discussion of Holden Caulfield from A Catcher in the Rye and the art of Pablo Picasso. Needless to say, the two characters interpret both dissimilarly. The musical score by Maurice Jarre is often lush and romantic but sometimes there are dissonant strains in the music which I interpret as sounds the young man hears in his head and which make him act out in a severe way. My favorite part of the film is actually the ending which adds another dimension to everything which came before. The Collector is an unusual film experience but certainly one of the best films of its kind ever made.