British writer-director Gordon Hessler has turned Richard Adams’ 1980 psycho-chiller novel The Girl in a Swing into a smooth, fine-looking piece of romantic-erotic entertainment with many a fine Hitchcockian touch and a rather special star turn by Meg Tilly.
In Adam’s novel, the story is wordy and obscure. Hessler introduces a direct cause-and-effect explanation of heroine Karin Foster’s (Tilly) death wish. This keeps her from finding lasting happiness with Alan (Rupert Frazer), a shy British ceramics teacher.
During their brief Florida honeymoon Karin’s feelings of guilt and Alan’s premonitions of disaster mount. They seek solace in their joy of sex.
When she succeeds in finding, and buying for next to nothing, a third example of the porcelain rarity ‘The Girl in the Swing’, they are assured of instant wealth, and Karin tries to take Holy Communion from a vicar friend to make a clean break with the past. Instead of absolution, Karin finds fear and guilt taking full possession of her, while Alan indulges her.
The recurring theme of guilt, atonement and punishment is gently explored during the development of suspense. Tilly, in spite of a contrived Teutonic accent, is wholly convincing whether expressing sexual abandon, poetic frailty or fear-striken despair.