Frederic Raphael penned an insightful, if not blistering, screenplay on the cult of celebrity in 1964. "Darling" might have looked dated compared to reality TV shows, which became part of regular programming. Raphael's tale of a blond model who thrust herself into wild parties and shallow characters could be rated general patronage compared to the Kardashian family. Popular culture had never been so debased, which Raphael foresaw decades ago.
The post-war era saw the populace picking up the pieces, also dealing with the after-effects of World War II. In Great Britain, the working class could be compared to the Joads (in "The Grapes of Wrath"). Life had never been so unfair, and some thought that ambition could motivate them to bring them a better life. The privileged class looked down at them, calling them social climbers. These were the angry, young men, who don't seem to find other ways to get out of the hole. Diana Scott was a lucky gal. Julie Christie, who won an Oscar for her performance in this film, was the right actor to play the titular character. She was the face of an iconic decade. The men instantly noticed her blond hair, wistful eyes, and lithe figure. She was young and available, so she couldn't be blamed for committing mistakes along the way. It was swinging London, and everyone wanted to be in.
John Schlesinger chose black-and-white photography, which enabled the camera to peer into Diana and the men who dated her. Robert Gold, working for a TV station, left his family for Diana. The honeymoon period ended when she realized that she was no match for his intellect. She could have sensed it earlier, but being trendy didn't include introspection. Diana left Robert for Miles Brand, an executive in an advertising firm. He was a regular fixture in the swinging circuit, where frustration and worries were forgotten for a few hours. Schlesinger, like Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni, used the camera to hit the prominent people who rather lived for the moment. And here lies the dilemma.
Films like "Darling" were supposed to serve as a moral compass, but the current generation of viewers would be disinterested in it. There was an absence of color, but it could be something else. Schlesinger, Fellini, and Antonioni have been part of the establishment, and they tried to distance themselves from it. Alas, the people they caricatured in their works were the very ones who patronized the arts. They have the resources to offer everything but affection. Diana learned this truth the hard way during her sabbatical in Italy. She was touched by the simplicity of a woman in deep prayer (inside a chapel), yet she didn't get the lessons right away. (She married a nobleman, who put her in a gilded cage. It was a medieval castle, where he was seldom present.) Why would there be such kind of people?
The lives of Diana and the men (who loved her) revealed how we could be more emotionally vulnerable than we ever thought. There might not be reality TV back then, but Raphael's script suggested that there could be other options out there. This would lead to the other (shocking) truth, where many wouldn't dare to live the life they every wanted. The glitter could bring empty promises, but they wouldn't mind at all. Anything but boredom. Anything but the resolution (to be better and different). Diana knew it, but she won't do something about it. She'd rather not be out of trend.