A young married couple from the USA arrives in the wife’s (Susan George as Amy) hometown in England, so her husband (Dustin Hoffman as David) can finish writing his book. They stay in her father’s house and soon the men of the village find a reason to invade the couples home which culminates in a violent finale.
The main characters can be grouped as such: The promiscuous village girls (including Amy) The somewhat primitive men of the village, lusting after Amy like a pack of wolves stalking their prey, even stealing her underwear. And opposite to all of this stands a reasonable, polite, smart, American scientist, physically much shorter and slimmer compared to the other men. If all these characters were positioned next to each other in a classical painting, the story wouldn’t be too hard to guess. The main characters true relations to each other and their intentions are revealed during the opening scene. The first time we see David, he carries a box full of groceries, looking a little insecure. He is clearly not in his comfort zone in this place. Innocent and easy to read, he is not up to any mischief. Amy’s breasts are revealed before we even see her face.
Her nipples show up full screen, then the camera slowly moves up to her smiling face as she is walking down the street, carrying a massive bear trap, to support the message of the braless jumper: Here comes the sexpot. She instantly catches eyes thanks to that famous poster worthy jumper. It is an all explanatory moment.
Men step out to take a closer look. Amy has made herself a target. She gets to her car and before she can be joined by her husband with the groceries, her ex boyfriend Charlie steps in first. He is still into her and she is not exactly pushing him away. When David appears, she seems to be joining sides with Charlie, both are standing together, smiling at David as they notice his discomfort. The camera cuts back and forth from David (who stands alone) to Amy/Charlie, who responds to Davids insecurity with a smile, cheekily asking if he is alright. They suggest that Charlie should come over with a friend to fix something around the house. David can only agree. He escapes to the shop to get cigarettes and briefly observes Amy and Charlie from the window as Charlie grabs her neck, reminding her of previous nights together.
So here we already have it: David is the unwanted stranger, a weirdo from another country, left to watch his wife stupidly, unconsciously siding with her Ex. Amy is a childish, bored, unemployed brat that doesn’t have her husbands back, only seeking attention. Her Ex (and he stands for most men appearing in this movie) has made a first move towards his prey and clearly won that round. He invited himself into her house and he is coming to stay. This first scene that can be understood as introduction of our protagonists will basically get repeated in all following scenes and culminate in a spectacular 30mins finale, where all characters are exposed in their essence.
Amy is bored and messing around with David and the other men. She keeps begging for attention as she insists on silly things, such as fixing the toaster and the garage. He has still not had any time to work on his book. Instead he sees Amy outside flirting with the workers. She has nothing to offer but her body that is on display all the time. She has no hobby (except for the bear trap), no work, no skills, she is just lying around, asking for stuff, being a pain, sabotaging his work. By walking around half naked in the house in front of those men, she invites nothing but trouble.
David is educated and adheres to his own set of rules guided by logic. He is a mathematician. His thing is logic. It is his house and he won’t abandon it, he will not allow injustice against it. Amy can’t keep it together and is willing to just give them what they want in order to make them go away. But David stands up for himself. This is where Amy’s behaviour forces him to treat her like the useless brat that she is and tells her to just go take a bath or go to sleep. “Why don’t you just go make some coffee?”, as she insists on being a pain.
As David is faced fighting for his principles alone, he exposes his cheating wife as a wimp, too scared to defend what’s hers. During this 30min ordeal in their house, she will not help her husband, instead she agues. Again a repetition of the opening scene occurs as Charlie convinces Amy to open the door and she blindly obeys, believing that this is in her own interest. Realising that Amy won’t help, David takes charge alone plus now he has to make sure that Amy’s stupidity doesn’t sabotage his actions.
We know of biblical fights, we know their stories also from paintings and statues. We admire the perfection of the statue of David, this glorious, handsome, defiant of Goliath, but why are his private parts so small? Why are all those renaissance males depicted with such small private parts? The renaissance is a time of progress, of understanding and spreading wisdom through beauty. Small genitals were actually a sign of wit and intelligence. David does not need to be tall and muscular. He has his slingshot and knows how to use it. He is confident in his skills. That is sufficient. David defeated his much stronger opponent with wit and intelligence, not with physical strength alone. Just like our American David here knows how to use his house: he makes weapons out of pieces of metal wire and even starts boiling water. He even uses music for distraction. He is strategic.
The poster shows either that troublesome jumper, or David’s face with his broken glasses. Broken glasses are often synonymous with the nerdy kid that gets beaten up in school. Here we have exactly that kind of bullying going on over a girl. Just like the Italian David, the outcome remains the same: knowledge is power.
Jump cuts take place in crucial scenes, to mirror emotional states and also to emphasise the difference in intention and character of our protagonists. For example when David gets lured out of his house by the men to go bird hunting (note that this activity is not randomly chosen as birds = girls) it is an analogy of what is happening at the same time somewhere else: Charlie knocks on Amy’s door to get his bird. While Charlie is first violating, then pleasuring Amy, David is clumsily chasing a pheasant. The same happens again later on when David is trying to please Amy and her mind flashbacks to Charlie. Or as the couple goes to the town hall party and all those kids noises are contributing to her weak mental state.
The film provides ample metaphors and analogies to reinforce its summary that is the opening scene. Look for yourself and see if you can find any other metaphors. Try to pay attention to the little things: when David is holding a lifeless pheasant and leaving it where he found it, does this not reoccur somewhere else in the film with something else instead of a pheasant? Also, what words are being used and who is saying them? In essence, the films message is the same as the statue of David’s. However, he does not have a troublesome wife.