The Dalenberg Library re-launches the Sunday film series with a mix of acknowledged classics and lesser known discoveries. Sometimes the Sunday film will be the latest in the “100 Years, 100 Films” series (which is running concurrently). A few times per year, we will assemble a “film festival” of related works and spend a few weeks looking into one topic. We are just starting to collect the films for our first “festival,” which will be a retrospective of our most beloved British actor, Dirk Bogarde–so expect that series in a few months. For this week, we turn to the collection “50 Years of Janus Films,” and turn back the clock to the UK in 1945.
David Lean’s film about a torrid extramarital affair in conflict with staid British propriety is a cornerstone classic of cinema as much as it is a staple of comic parodies. The film may seem too chaste for today’s reality as the characters, hopelessly in love but with too many psychological and social barriers to overcome, never physically consummate their love outside a few kisses and hugs. However, the near absence of sex in the film rings true, even for today, as most couples caught in such situations seem to spend more time planning, and sneaking about, and guilt-tripping than they do actually making love. Noel Coward’s incisive writing mates with Lean’s probing direction to get into the minds of these characters and together effectively depict the delirious happiness of love juxtaposed with the increasingly stifling sense of hopelessness for the doomed relationship.
Sir David Lean (1908-1991) is best remembered today as a director of epics. But he started out directing melodramas based on Noel Coward plays, like this one. The two iterations of David Lean are not in conflict, however. Films like Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago are really intimate epics where the human stories play out against an epic backdrop.