Variety has been given exclusive access to the first clip from Sally Potter’s “The Party,” starring Patricia Clarkson, Timothy Spall and Kristin Scott Thomas. The film, which she describes as “a comedy, albeit wrapped around some tragic elements,” world premieres in competition at the Berlin Film Festival.

The story centers on a gathering at the London townhouse of a married couple, Bill (Spall), an academic, and Janet (Scott Thomas), a politician, who has just been promoted to the top tier of her party. “[Bill] has given up some opportunities in his working life in order to support hers,” Potter explains. “And with that decision come some disappointments, some frustrations.”

With five other guests (and one significant absentee), the set-up recalls such classics as Mike Nichols’ adaptation of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and Luis Bunuel’s “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.” “Each of these people hold secrets. Things that have been hidden come out in a sequence of revelations in a somewhat catastrophic way,” says Potter, “which all makes it sound rather bleak and heavy, but, in fact, this is a comedy, albeit wrapped around some tragic elements.”

Other members of the ensemble cast are Emily Mortimer, Cherry Jones, Bruno Ganz and Cillian Murphy. The producers are Christopher Sheppard and Kurban Kassam for Adventure Pictures.

Written with what Potter calls “an awareness of the absurdity of human suffering,” her ambitions for “The Party” were far-reaching. “I really wanted to do something that came at political life through the prism of the politics of personal life: relationships, shifting tectonic plates of power, love, desire, betrayal, longing, disappointment, and so on. In a way, these were universal human experiences people might have in a lifetime but condensed into an hour-and-a-half of real time.”

The cinematographer is Alexey Rodionov, the costume designer is Jane Petrie, the production designer is Carlos Conti, the editor is Anders Refn, and the casting directors are Irene Lamb and Heidi Levitt.