David D Osborn has knitted the story of ‘The Trap’ around an unusual situation where romance and the wilderness of nature come into conflict with the conceited culture of a small trading post of Canada in the 1950s. The film was screened at South Asian Free Media Association’s Media Centre on Friday.
Like a few other exceptional movies, this 1966 classic focuses on two main characters, namely Jean la Bête (Oliver Reed), a fur trapper and dealer living in the wilds of Canada, and a mute girl Eve (Rita Tushingham) who is cunningly sold to Jean as his wife.
Rita Tushingham plays the role of a girl traumatized by the experience of seeing her parents brutally murdered by the Indians. She is brought to the town as a house maid in the home of a fur trader who lives along with his wife and young daughter Sarah.
Jean la Bête, played by Oliver Reed, is totally unaccustomed to town life and appears boorish, uncivilized and alien. He only knows the ways of jungle wilderness. Even the trader who kept his money for a long time considers him little more than a wild animal. There is a Dionysian urge for wine, women and meat in him. A hunter of animals, he is a straight forward symbol of aggressive masculinity.
The story takes a queer turn when Eve is sold by the trader’s wife to Jean as his wife, who forcibly takes her in a canoe to his abode of nature and animals. They live there in a wooden log cabin, without any amenities to please her. He lives on hunting different animals and selling their furs to the traders of the commercial town, where nature and market come face to face.
During Eve’s stay in the wilderness with Jean, an incident radically changes her attitude towards him. Avictim of his own trap, Jean is treated with kindness by Eve after she amputates his leg on his own advice. The most dramatic end is the return of Eve to Jean after she plays the role of a runaway bride.
The film did not earn any laurels and remained largely unsung. However, certain critics opine that it is one of the greatest British movies ever made. It was most certainly the peak of Rita Tushingham’s outstanding film career. In July 2009, she was bestowed with Honorary Fellowship by Liverpool John Moores University for Outstanding and Sustained Contributions to the Performing Arts.
The director of the film, Sidney Hayers, was a British film and television director, writer and producer. His most critically acclaimed films were Circus of Horrors (1960), and The Occult Thriller Night of the Eagle (1962) and of course The Trap (1966).
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2011.