Eastbourne Film Society launches new season

NEXT Wednesday, (September 19), the Eastbourne Film Society begins a new season at the Curzon Cinema when, as usual, there will be seats available for the general public.

The programme gets off to an intriguing start with the latest release by Robert Redford as director, The Conspirator.

This is a film which goes back in history to tell a true story, that of Mary Surratt who was accused of involvement in the conspiracy that led to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

The fact that few people in this country know of Mary Surratt only adds to the power of the film as it unfolds.

It’s clear that the plans were laid in her home, a boarding house, and that her son was party to it, but was Mary, who might have wished to cover up for her son, telling a lie when she denied all knowledge of what was being planned?

Did she deserve to be prosecuted as a conspirator herself? The 28 year-old attorney Frederick Aiken who took on her case was initially sceptical but then came to believe in the probability of her innocence. But what would the outcome of the trial be?

The Conspirator boasts fine performances from Robin Wright as Mary and from James McAvoy as her lawyer, and it has a quite outstanding supporting cast headed by Tom Wilkinson, Kevin Kline, Evan Rachel Wood and Danny Huston.

But what makes it compelling is the way in which it shows justice and political expediency at odds.

It’s a suspenseful and fascinating period tale, but it doesn’t belong wholly to the past since what happened to Mary yields parallels with more recent events.