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Fable (1965)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

England. The country is an apartheid state, governed by a black Head of State. Len and Joan are a white couple living with their children in a council block. Len receives notice of his redundancy from his driving job, and a compulsory relocation order. Shortly after police arrive to enforce the order.

In a television news studio, the editor enters a screening of footage of the movements. He tells his deputy to drop the story and lead with a story of the Head of State's visit to Jerusalem.

Joan visits Len's former employer, Mark Fellowes, a liberal black writer, living under house arrest. She asks for his help. His wife, Francesca, tries to hurry Joan away. Mark appears sympathetic, but Joan leaves with nothing more than some money and food.

Len meets his new employer in Scotland, an altogether harder taskmaster. He probes Len for information about Fellowes. Meanwhile, Joan complains to a neighbour about her treatment by Francesca.

Fellowes completes an article, which he intends to submit to an underground magazine Protest. Since he is banned from publication, he submits under an assumed name. He asserts his words will finally raise awareness of what is going on. He gives the article to Francesca to deliver to the magazine. But Francesca takes the article and burns it.

Mark is allowed to entertain some liberal friends, but the house is overrun by guards. Unknown to Fellowes, Joan is hidden in the kitchen. Francesca gives her food, but refuses to let her see her husband, despite her pleas. Later, Francesca tells Mark. He is keen to help Joan, but Francesca reminds him that if he does so he risks imprisonment and the loss of any opportunity to write and be heard.

While Len's employer is out, his wife, Lala, flirts with Len, and asks him about Fellowes, and about the opposition 'movement'. His employer returns with two other men.

Len is accused of rape and attacked. He escapes from hospital, and police raid Joan's flat looking for him. Len evades police and meets Joan. He tells her that his employer believed his wife's accusations of rape, and took revenge, castrating him. He tells her about the movement, and about his plans to assassinate the Head of State.

Two days later, Len carries out the action. He is captured and interrogated; in his statement he lists countless 'associates', changing his story with each retelling. News reporting announces that the assassination attempt - which, according to the news, is ultimately unsuccessful - is part of a communist conspiracy. Later broadcasts, at the behest of the Minister, reverse the story, denying any conspiracy. Len has died under torture; reports claim his death is suicide.

Francesca is burning the latest of Mark's writings when she is disturbed by Joan. She sends her away. The Minister announces a new programme of relocations for non-black citizens, claiming it is to address population imbalances.

Mark is visited by Joan, now a prostitute, who tells him she is being relocated as an 'undesireable' and begs him to take action to record events. She tells him about rumours of death camps. When he tries to write her story down, she tells him about his wife's burning his writing. When she touches him, he throws her away in disgust. Francesca enters and Joan leaves.

Later Francesca visits the Minister and complains about Joan. Joan is later murdered by a plainclothes agent; when her neighbour witnesses her death, he shares her fate. In the newsroom, the editor tells his deputy to include the story of the deaths in the bulletin - he says the people must know about the sordid prostitution and murder among the white population.

Fellowes reads the story in a newspaper and complains of its untrue sensationalism. She persuades him that his purpose is not to take direct action, but to write. Finishing his latest article, he asserts, in a daze, that these words will finally raise awareness of what is going on.