“Glengarry Glen Ross” is a window onto a milieu of bombast, common vulgarity, and direct confrontation. “Gosford Park” is bifurcated into a coterie of masters ruled by reserve and insinuation and their distorted mirror image – a supporting army of servants taking pride where they can find it.
Conversation – massive amounts of it, often overlapping, sometimes seemingly offhand – is the primary engine of both films. It dictates the structure of scenes and the geometry of shots; it directs and misleads us, illuminates and distracts.
To watch both films is to observe an ant farm: you enter the action in medias res and must work to discern, and then keep up with, the endless shifts in power – and concomitant modulations in relationships – between individuals.
The characters in both films make interpersonal assessments swiftly and mercilessly. In “Gosford Park,” one is only as good as the family one was born into (or serves;) in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” one is only as good as one’s last sale.
In both films, the sweat of the majority sustains the minority’s veneer of fierce cool. In both, even the slightest look or gesture is fraught with meaning, because everyone has a motive for the dastardly deed at each story’s center.
(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “amandabhslater” and “allyrose18” at Flickr)