Though uncertain about both of them, Samantha Eggar’s performance is in a way the total opposite of Julie Christie’s. When I previously wrote about Julie I said that one of her big accomplishments was that she was so faithful to her character. And this is the biggest problem I have with Samantha’s take on Miranda: she didn’t understand the character, at least not in the first part. It’s a big problem, because the audience depends on you the actor to guide us in discovering and understanding the feelings, desires, thoughts – everything about your character.
To be more precise, I didn’t find her to be terrified enough. And because there were certain shifts in the character’s attitude (at least that’s how I perceived them), it affected the credibility of both the story and the character. Why didn’t she try harder to escape?! Why didn’t she just hit the kidnaper in the head with something? Why was she so relaxed at times and why did she trust him? These are all justified questions, all about the first part of her captivity. Was Samantha misdirected in underplaying the despair of this kidnapped woman? I really can’t tell, but I got the feeling she could’ve done more to increase the credibility of Miranda’s actions.
But oh boy does she get better. Because Samantha has a very expressive (and beautiful) face and, half an hour into the film, when the camera’s on her, we feel like we’re finally seeing something. You can spot the fear in her eyes; you believe her terrified innocence and the hope that Miranda holds on to, the hope that she’ll get out of there alive. It’s not an easy character to play, because it’s all based on the notion of surprise. Samantha must always act like she has no idea what’s gonna come next. It’s a strange situation where the character knows just as much as the audience, so Samantha must always look shocked and be fresh and spontaneous.
Her great movie moments have to do with the idea of what’s gonna happen to her. She’s excellent with powerful lines like I don’t want to die, because we feel her sincerity and her true struggle to live. The moment in the film where she realizes that she will never get out of there alive is really well played and very relevant. And because her face is so expressive (I wish she would’ve also used this talent more in the first part of the film), her constant teary eyes (she would’ve been great doing silent films) tear us apart, making us care and somehow hope for a happy ending. The intense scene involving him dragging her through the rain was crazy suspenseful and dramatic in the end.
It’s a contradictory performance, both simple and subtle. She sometimes plays it with a bit too much elegance and dignity; other times, she’s dead on in capturing emotion and despair. What she fails to do in the beginning proves successful as the story unfolds: she makes us give a damn about this girl held in captivity by an unusual psycho. From a point on, Samantha plays Miranda so well and she’s so expressive and likeable, that I tend to forget the shakiness from the first 20-30 minutes. Just like the film itself, this is an intriguing performance, but way above the material. I give her .