After opening a convent in the Himalayas, five nuns encounter conflict and tension - both with the natives and also within their own group - as they attempt to adapt to their remote, exotic surroundings.
Portrays in warm-hearted detail the life and loves of one extraordinary man. We meet the imposingly rotund General Clive Wynne-Candy, a blustering old duffer who seems the epitome of stuffy, outmoded values. Traveling backwards 40 years we see a different man altogether: the young and dashing officer "Sugar" Candy. Through a series of relationships with three women and his lifelong friendship with a German officer, we see Candy's life unfold and come to understand how difficult it is for him to adapt his sense of military honor to modern notions of "total war."Written by
The lead actors' names are sewn onto a tapestry-like picture, written on scrolls. This opening credits "needlework tapestry" was completed by the Royal College of Needlework. See more »
The original version (the one restored to Criterion Collection DVD and laserdisc) runs 163 minutes. When Winston Churchill expressed his vehement dislike for the film, the British distributor, Rank Films, cut it to 140 minutes. The film was chopped to pieces when it was imported to the United States in 1945, running around 120 minutes (in which the film's vital flashback structure is eliminated and the story is told from beginning to end). The film was further cut to 90 minutes and ran on public television often in the 1970's (in the Criterion commentary, Martin Scorsese comments that this is the version he saw late night when working on New York, New York (1977)). For years, it was thought that the only existing version was this 90-minute version. In 1983, with the cooperation of the Archers, the epic film was restored to the full 163-minute length, much to the delight of Emeric Pressburger (whose favorite film this was). The film was reconstructed to the original flashback structure and many scenes taking place during World War I were restored, including the much-discussed black soldier. See more »
Devotion and realism - for country, friendship and woman
Clive Candy (Roger Livesey), a British army officer, wins a Victoria Cross in South Africa, fights a duel in Berlin in 1902, acquires a lifelong friend and his lifelong love for a woman (or women), commands in Flanders in the Great War and brings the experience of a lifetime's service to the Second World War.
It is soon apparent that this fine film portrays a Colonel Blimp very different from David Low's jingoistic and hidebound comic strip character. Here, Candy is a sympathetic figure from the start; firm in his principles, certainly, but courteous and sensitive with those whom he respects - indeed, how could Livesey not appear as a sympathetic character: it seems to be in his very nature. The film is clever and deceptive in its structure. The action is framed by the opening WWII exercise, in which the "invaders" capture the elderly General Wynne-Candy. These scenes are repeated and elaborated at the end of the film, where the effect of the exercise in demonstrating the obsolescence of Candy's values becomes clear and when he makes clear his great stature in embracing the uncongenial reality that confronts him. Within this frame, the story of Candy's life is told, and here is the greater deception, for, at the beginning, it seems like a straightforward romantic comedy, perhaps even disappointing in its lack of ideas. Then, after the Armistice, the mood changes, becomes philosophical, as the nature of loyalty and friendship, of love and patriotism are explored.
Representatives of the British establishment, assembled around a dinner table, assert their resolve to see Germany rebuilt in a fair peace. Credulity is strained here, when one recalls the oppressive reality and disastrous consequences of the Versailles Treaty. Yet the principles are praiseworthy and would be reflected in the settlement after WWII. The two defining moments of the film are both given to Candy's long-time friend, the German uhlan officer, Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff (Anton Walbrook). He delivers two set-piece speeches, one explaining why he had abandoned Germany for England in 1935, the second a manifesto for the survival of a democracy in total war. They, like the rest of his performance, are given impeccably and, with their quiet delivery by a German character, intensely moving.
Deborah Kerr, lovely yet brimming with personality, plays superbly her three roles, each a woman Candy loves at different stages in his career and, incidentally, disclosing his character as socially democratic, unlikely but attractive none the less. Kerr succeeds in subtly differentiating each role, whilst revealing the characteristics that were bound to attract Candy. Both Walbrook and Livesey give outstanding performances, despite ageing forty years, a process Kerr avoids. John Laurie, as Murdoch, Candy's batman, has a less outrageous role than those usually assigned to this fine character actor. Alfred Junge presents his usual excellent design, taking full advantage of Technicolor.
This film was, supposedly, produced in 1943 as British propaganda. It is noteworthy that even Churchill could not suppress exhibition of this film when he was concerned at its message. That message embraces loyalty and steadfastness, honesty, democracy, realism and fairness. It is about the importance of relationships that transcend nationality. It is about love, between woman and man, and as a general concept. It is about being resolute and pragmatic in conflict and generous in victory. It recognizes the value of individuals beyond the categories in which they find themselves. If this film can be represented as British propaganda, then no-one need be ashamed to be British.
This film transcends its format and, perhaps, the intentions with which it was produced. It is another wonderful surprise from the Archers which everyone should see.
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