Friday, November 2, 2012

49th Parallel

Michael Powell's 49th Parallel isn't a war film in the conventional sense. Yes, the Nazis are the villains in this (not to mention the main characters) but Powell isn't interested with the battlefield. He's more interested with the home front.

The film's set in a country that had little involvement in World War II: Canada. (Okay, that's a lie. They had some significant involvement in the war.) There are a few stereotypes among the portrayals of Canadians but apart from that, Powell provides an honest portrait of the country.

The names involved with 49th Parallel include Laurence Olivier, Anton Walbrook and Leslie Howard. Yet they are not the stars of the film. (They are merely supporting players, despite the fact Howard and Olivier got top billing.) The star, however, is Eric Portman, who plays the leader of the Nazi troupe. He gets so wrapped up in his faith for his country, it practically poisons his mind.

Another noted aspect of 49th Parallel is the lovely cinematography by Freddie Young. Capturing the vast Canadian land, Young has an eye for nature's true beauty amid the ruggedness of it all. (Then again, this is the man who would later shoot Lawrence of Arabia.)

49th Parallel isn't as great as Black Narcissus or The Reds Shoes or Peeping Tom, but it is an interesting film to watch. Powell captures the determination found in every human, something that will not be easily destroyed in any situation. (Haven't we all gone through a time like that?)

My Rating: ****

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