The setting is a public school, modelled on Eton and Winchester, in the 1930s. Guy Bennett (Rupert Everett) and Tommy Judd (Colin Firth) are pupils and, because they are both outsiders in their own ways, friends (Bennett is gay while Judd is a Marxist).
One day, a teacher walks in on Martineau (Philip Dupuy) and a boy from another house engaged in mutual masturbation. Martineau subsequently kills himself and teachers and the senior pupils try their hardest to keep the scandal away from parents and the outside world. The gay scandal however gives the army-obsessed house captain Fowler (Tristan Oliver) a welcome reason to scheme against Bennett. Fowler dislikes him and Judd and wants to stop Bennett from becoming a "God" - a school title for the two top prefects. Fowler is able to intercept a love letter from Bennett to James Harcourt (Cary Elwes). Bennett agrees to be punished with a whipping so as not to compromise Harcourt; whereas on earlier occasions, he had avoided punishment by blackmailing the other "Gods" with the threat that he would reveal their own experiences with him.
Meanwhile, Judd is reluctant to become a prefect, since he feels that he cannot endorse a "system of oppression" such as this. He makes a memorable, bitter speech about how the boys oppressed by the system grow up to be the fathers who maintain it. Eventually however he agrees to become a prefect in order to prevent the hateful Fowler from becoming Head of House. This never comes about because Donald Devenish (Rupert Wainwright) agrees to stay at school and become a prefect if he is nominated to become a God instead of Bennett.
Devastated at the loss of his cherished dream of becoming a God, Bennett comes to realize that the British class system strongly relies on outward appearance and that to be openly gay is a severe hindrance to his intended career as a diplomat.
The film's epilogue reports that he defected to Russia later in his life, after having been a spy for the Soviet Union. Judd died fighting in the Spanish Civil War.Rupert Everett as Guy Bennett
Colin Firth as Tommy Judd
Cary Elwes as James Harcourt
Michael Jenn as Barclay
Robert Addie as Delahay
Rupert Wainwright as Donald Devenish
Tristan Oliver as Fowler
Piers Flint-Shipman, credited as Frederick Alexander, as Jim Menzies
Adrian Ross Magenty as Wharton
Geoffrey Bateman as Yevgeni
Philip Dupuy as Martineau
Guy Henry as Head Boy
Jeffry Wickham as Arthur
John Line as Best Man
Gideon Boulting as Trafford
Nicholas Rowe as Spungin
Anna Massey as Imogen Bennett
Betsy Brantley as Julie Schofield
Jim Tavaré (uncredited) as a featured extra Student and Colin Firth's stand-in
Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer, the younger brother of Diana, Princess of Wales, is an extra (with no dialogue) in three scenes.
The title refers not only to Soviet Russia, which is the "other country" Bennett turns to in the end, but it can be seen to take on a number of different meanings and connotations. It could be a reference to the first line of the second (or third, depending on the version) stanza of the hymn I Vow to Thee, My Country, which is sung in both the play and film, as well as referring to the fact that English public school life in the 1930s was indeed very much like "another country". In the hymn, the other country referred to is Heaven (or the Kingdom of Heaven), although this allusion does not appear to relate to the film in any way.
Another Country is also the title of a novel by James Baldwin, which includes gay and bisexual characters.
The Go-Between is a novel by L.P. Hartley (1895-1972), published in London in 1953. The novel begins with the famous line:"The past is a foreign country (often misquoted as 'another country')...: they do things differently there."
The most direct reference is to several well-known lines from British literature, originating from Christopher Marlowe's play, The Jew of Malta
Friar Barnadine: "Thou hast committed--"
Barabas: "Fornication-- but that was in another country; / And besides, the wench is dead."
Here "the wench" may refer to Martineau. Most of the students are more interested in covering up a potential scandal than worrying about the actual death. If so, the "adultery" may refer to what is done to Martineau and perhaps all students by the school, rather than his actual sexual liaisons.
Eton College declined to serve as a location for the film. With an additional fountain brought in, the Old Schools Quadrangle at Oxford University became an important location, along other localities such as the Bodleian Library, Brasenose College, Brasenose Lane, and Broad Street. Many interiors were shot at Althorp, seat of the Spencer family. Other scenes were filmed at Apethorpe Hall.
Rupert Everett, who had played the role of Bennett in the play's first run, was cast in that role for the film.
Twenty years later, Everett would play the lead in another Marek Kanievska film, A Different Loyalty (2004), playing a spy based on Kim Philby, a close associate of spy Guy Burgess, whom the Bennett character is based on.
The film was entered into the 1984 Cannes Film Festival where it won the award for Best Artistic Contribution.
It was nominated for three BAFTA Awards in film: Editing (1984) Gerry Hambling, Most Outstanding Newcomer to Film (1984) Rupert Everett, and Adapted Screenplay (1984) Julian Mitchell