LONGFORD is a film that recounts the aftermath of one of England's most bizarre and notorious murder cases, the Moors Murders in which Myra Hindley and Ian Brady (left) abducted and murdered at least five children in the mid-1960s.
It's a bit unclear as to whether they were both psychos or he beat/lured her into doing her part: they killed a teen-aged girl and two boys after prolonged sexual torture. In a bizarre move, they killed one of their victims with an axe in the presence of Myra's brother-in-law in an apparent attempt to get him to join in their rituals; instead he managed to alert the police. On investigation the police found a sheaf of notes as to how they'd killed the other two and buried them in the moors. The bodies were found and both Hindley and Brady were sentenced to life in prison.
Longford, an eccentric member of the House of Lords who espoused the rights of the imprisoned, met Hindley and took a liking to her. He worked to get her paroled. Just when - after serving about 15 years - the parole board agreed to hear her case, Brady (in a separate prison but also in touch with Longford) revealed that they had committed two additional murders. The authorities took Myra to the Moors and she led them to the graves. Longford was horrified by her betrayal - he had asked her before he started defending her if she had any 'secrets' which might eventually damn his efforts. In view of the new revelations and the massive public outrage, all talk of Hindley getting paroled came to an end. Longford distanced himself from the case; he was ridiculed and his political career was destroyed.
The film weaves in actual news footage from the period, including an interview David Frost conducted with Longford in which Jim Broadbent appears to be sitting in Frost's guest chair. In a thoroughly engrossing cast one of my favorite actresses, Lindsay Duncan make an especially memorable impression as Longford's somewhat chilly wife; after years of scoffing at or being mildly jealous of her husband's interest in the foul murderess Hindley, Lady Longford one day avails herself of an opportunity to read the correspondence between prisoner and Lord. Strangely moved, she asks to meet Hindley and in a desolate scene the two women are introduced in a squalid jail with Hindley being kept sedated and where she is at serious risk of being murdered by her fellow inmates. Appalled by what she has seen, Longford's wife begins to support her husband's quest.
Jim Broadbent's fascinating portrayal of Longford is all the more impressive when we see clips of the real Lord Longford and can revel in Broadbent's total immersion in the character. Samantha Morton, another actress high on my list, perfectly captures the enigma of Hindley: is she a victim herself or a calculating, manipulative fiend? Andy Serkis has the more straightforward role of the criminally deranged Brady and he plays it to cold-blooded perfection. The Philip Glassian score by Robert Lane subtly underlines the film's shifting moods.
Myra Hindley served 32 years in prison and when she was dying of emphysema she asked to see Longford one last time to apologize to him. Ian Brady is still alive, now nearly 80-years-old; he has asked never to be released from prison.
The film is all the more interesting because - aside from the quality of the acting from Broadbent, Morton, Duncan & Serkis - it's one of those stories that you sort of know something about but never bothered to delve into.
Wei and I watched this film in rapt silence: it is very powerful.