The Crying Game
The Crying Game is a 1992 thriller film written and directed by Neil Jordan, produced by Stephen Woolley, and starring Stephen Rea, Miranda Richardson, Jaye Davidson, Adrian Dunbar, and Forest Whitaker. The film explores themes of race, gender, nationality, and sexuality against the backdrop of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
|The Crying Game|
UK quad poster
|Directed by||Neil Jordan|
|Produced by||Stephen Woolley|
|Written by||Neil Jordan|
|Music by||Anne Dudley|
|Edited by||Kant Pan|
|Distributed by||Palace Pictures|
The film is about the experiences of the main character, Fergus (Rea). A member of the IRA, Fergus has a brief but meaningful encounter with a soldier, Jody (Whitaker), who is held prisoner by the group. Fergus later develops an unexpected romantic relationship with Jody's love interest, Dil (Davidson), whom Fergus promised Jody he would protect. However, unexpected events force Fergus to decide what he wants for the future and what his nature dictates he must do.
A critical and commercial success, The Crying Game won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film as well as the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, alongside Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Rea, Best Supporting Actor for Davidson, and Best Film Editing. In 1999, the British Film Institute named it the 26th-greatest British film of all time.
At a fairground in rural Northern Ireland, Provisional IRA volunteer Fergus and a unit of other IRA members, led by Maguire, kidnap Jody, a black British soldier. The kidnapping is accomplished after IRA member Jude lures Jody to a secluded area with the promise of sex. The IRA demands the release of imprisoned IRA members, threatening to execute Jody in three days if their demands are not met. Fergus guards Jody and develops a bond with him, much to the chagrin of the other IRA men; Jody tells Fergus the story of the Scorpion and the Frog.
Jody persuades Fergus to promise to seek out his significant other, Dil, in London should Jody be killed. The deadline set by Jody's captors passes. When Fergus takes Jody into the woods to kill him, Jody runs away. Fergus cannot bring himself to shoot the fleeing Jody in the back, but Jody is accidentally run over and killed by a British armoured personnel carrier as it moves in to assault the IRA safe-house. With his IRA companions seemingly dead after the attack, Fergus flees to London, where he takes a job as a day labourer using the alias "Jimmy". A few months later, Fergus finds Dil at a hair salon. Later, they talk in a bar, where Dil is tormented by a drunk customer and both are followed by Fergus as they go to her apartment for sex.
Fergus feels guilty about Jody's death. He pursues Dil, protecting her from an obsessive suitor and falling in love with her. Later, when the two prepare to have sex in Dil's apartment, he discovers that she is transgender. His initial reaction is of revulsion; rushing to the bathroom to vomit after hitting Dil in the face. A few days later, Fergus leaves Dil a note and the two make up; despite Dil being transgender, Fergus is still taken by her. Around the same time, Jude unexpectedly reappears and tells Fergus that the IRA has tried and convicted him in absentia. Jude forces him to agree to help assassinate a British judge. She also mentions that she knows about Fergus and Dil, warning him that the IRA will kill Dil if Fergus does not cooperate.
Fergus continues to woo Dil. To shield Dil from possible retribution, he gives her a haircut and menswear as a disguise. The night before the IRA mission is to be carried out, Dil gets drunk and Fergus escorts her to her apartment, where she asks him to never leave her again. Fergus complies, then admits he had an indirect hand in Jody's death. Dil, drunk, appears not to understand; however, in the morning, before Fergus wakes up, Dil restrains him by tying him to the bed by his limbs with black stockings. By doing so, Dil unwittingly prevents Fergus from completing the assassination. Holding Fergus at gunpoint with his own pistol, Dil demands that he tell her that he loves her and will never leave her; he complies, and she unties him.
Jude and Maguire shoot the judge, but Maguire is shot and killed by one of the armed bodyguards. A vengeful Jude enters Dil's flat with a gun, seeking to kill Fergus for not taking part in the assassination. Dil takes several shots at Jude, hitting her, whilst stating that she is aware that Jude was complicit in Jody's death and that Jude used her sexuality to trick him. Dil finally kills Jude with a shot to the neck. She then points the gun at Fergus but lowers her hand, saying that she cannot kill him because Jody will not allow her to. Fergus prevents Dil from shooting herself and tells her to hide out. He wipes her fingerprints off the gun, replaces them with his own, and allows himself to be arrested in her place. A few months later, Dil visits Fergus in prison and asks why he took the fall for her. He responds, "As a man once said, it's in my nature". He then tells her the story of the Scorpion and the Frog.
Neil Jordan first drafted the screenplay in the mid-1980s under the title The Soldier's Wife, but shelved the project after a similar film was released. The story was inspired in part by a 1931 short story by Frank O'Connor called Guests of the Nation, in which IRA soldiers develop a bond with their English captives, who they are ultimately forced to kill. The original draft had the character of Dil as a woman, but Jordan had the idea to make the character a transvestite while premiering his film The Miracle at the 41st Berlin International Film Festival in 1991.
Jordan sought to begin production of the film in the early 1990s, but found it difficult to secure financing. Potential investors were discouraged by his recent string of box office flops and by the script's controversial themes. Several funding offers from the United States came to naught because the funders wanted Jordan to cast a woman to play the role of Dil, believing that it would be impossible to find an androgynous male actor who could pass as a female. Jordan was eventually referred to Jaye Davidson by Derek Jarman. Davidson, a man, was completely new to acting, and was spotted by a casting agent while attending a premiere party for Jarman's film Edward II. Rea later said, "'If Jaye hadn’t been a completely convincing woman, my character would have looked stupid'". The film included full-frontal male nudity; Davidson was filmed nude in the notable "surprise" scene in which Dil's gender identity was revealed.
The film went into production with an inadequate patchwork of funding, leading to a stressful and unstable filming process. The producers constantly searched for small amounts of money to keep the production going, and the level of pay left crew members disgruntled. Costume designer Sandy Powell had an extremely small budget to work with and ended up having to lend Davidson some of her own clothes to wear in the film; the two happened to be the same size.
The film was known as The Soldier's Wife for much of the production, but Stanley Kubrick, who was a friend of Jordan, counselled against the title; Kubrick believed that the title would lead audiences to expect a war film. The opening sequence was shot in Laytown, County Meath, Ireland and the rest in London and Burnham Beeches, Buckinghamshire UK. The bulk of the film's London scenes were shot in the East End, specifically Hoxton and Spitalfields. Dil's flat is in a building facing onto Hoxton Square, with the exterior of the Metro on nearby Coronet Street. Fergus' flat and Dil's hair salon are both in Spitalfields. Chesham Street in Belgravia was the location for the assassination of the judge, with the now defunct Lowndes Arms pub just around the corner.
The film was shown at festivals in Italy, the US and Canada in September, and originally released in Ireland and the UK in October 1992, where it failed at the box office. Director Neil Jordan, in later interviews, attributed this failure to the film's heavily political undertone, particularly its sympathetic portrayal of an IRA fighter. The bombing of a pub in London is specifically mentioned as turning the English press against the film.
The then-fledgling film company Miramax decided to promote the film in the United States where it became a sleeper hit, earning over $60 million at the box office. A memorable advertising campaign generated intense public curiosity by asking audiences not to reveal the film's "secret" regarding Dil's gender identity. Jordan also believed the film's success was a result of the film's British–Irish politics being either lesser-known or completely unknown to American audiences, who flocked to the film for what Jordan called "the sexual politics".
The film earned critical acclaim and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Actor (Rea), Best Supporting Actor (Davidson) and Best Director. Writer-director Jordan finally won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The film went on to success around the world, including re-releases in Britain and Ireland.
"Critics in Los Angeles and New York, where 'The Crying Game' opened last week, were ecstatic about Jordan's picture, greeting it with 39 positive reviews, one negative review and six mixed notices, according to Weekly Variety's reviewers poll".
The Crying Game received worldwide acclaim from critics. Roger Ebert gave the film a four-star rating and described it as one that "involves us deeply in the story, and then it reveals that the story is really about something else altogether."
Richard Corliss, in Time magazine, stated: "And the secret? Only the meanest critic would give that away, at least initially." He revealed the film's secret by means of an acrostic, forming a sentence from the first letter of each paragraph.
Much has been written about The Crying Game's discussion of race, nationality and sexuality. Theorist and author Judith Halberstam argued that Dil's transvestism and the viewer's placement in Fergus's point of view reinforces societal norms rather than challenging them. The film has a 94% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 66 reviews with the consensus: "The Crying Game is famous for its shocking twist, but this thoughtful, haunting mystery grips the viewer from start to finish."
Awards and nominations
The soundtrack to the film, The Crying Game: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, released on 23 February 1993, was produced by Anne Dudley and Pet Shop Boys. Boy George scored his first hit since 1987 with his recording of the title song – a song that had been a hit in the 1960s for British singer Dave Berry. The closing rendition of Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man" was performed by American singer Lyle Lovett.
- "The Crying Game" – Boy George
- "When a Man Loves a Woman" – Percy Sledge
- "Live for Today" (Orchestral) – Cicero and Sylvia Mason-James
- "Let the Music Play" – Carroll Thompson
- "White Cliffs of Dover" – The Blue Jays
- "Live for Today" (Gospel) – David Cicero
- "The Crying Game" – Dave Berry
- "Stand by Your Man" – Lyle Lovett
- "The Soldier's Wife"*
- "It's in my Nature"*
- "March to the Execution"*
- "I'm Thinking of You"*
- "Dies Irae"*
- "The Transformation"*
- "The Assassination"*
- "The Soldier's Tale"*
*Orchestral tracks composed by Anne Dudley and performed by the Pro Arte Orchestra of London
- "The Crying Game (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 28 August 1992. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
- Rufus Olins (24 September 1995). "Mr Fixit of the British Screen". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
- BFI (21 February 2017). In conversation with The Crying Game cast. YouTube.com. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
- Jack Watkins (21 February 2017). "How we made The Crying Game". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
- Giles, Jeff; Giles, Jeff (1 April 1993). "Jaye Davidson: Oscar's Big Surprise". Retrieved 21 June 2019.
- Vineyard, Jennifer (5 December 2014). "Stephen Rea on The Crying Game's Surprise Penis". Vulture.com. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
- Presenter: Francine Stock (17 September 2010). "The Film Programme". The Film Programme. London, England. BBC. BBC Radio 4.
- Oliver Lunn (26 January 2018). "How London has changed since the Crying Game". bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
- Interview "English Love" in special features of The Crying Game Collector's Edition DVD, 2005 https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104036/dvd
- "Director implores that 'Crying Game' secrets be kept" (1 December 1992), The Orange County Register, Santa Ana, California.
- Ebert, Roger, Review of The Crying Game, Chicago Sun-Times, 18 December 1992.
- Corliss, Richard. "Queuing For The Crying Game", Time, 25 January 1993.
- Halberstam, Judith (2005), In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives, New York: New York University Press, p. 81. ISBN 978-0-8147-3585-5.
- The Crying Game at Rotten Tomatoes