Celebrating Great Films

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Gone with the Wind

#161 at time of writing.

The idea of sitting still for a four hour film might seem daunting, but the running time of this masterful epic somehow flies past (helped by the enforced interval and "entr'acte", which allows for a natural break).

The film tells the story of a despicable, manipulative, but very charming woman (Scarlett O'Hara played by Brit Vivien Leigh) who is obsessed with a man she can't have. A host of suitors throw themselves at her - and some stick for a while - in particular, a charismatic self-confessed cad who is cockily confident that she will fall for him eventually (Rhett Butler played by Clark Gable).

Meanwhile, the American Civil War reaches a crescendo and Scarlett's wealthy friends and family find themselves facing the consequences of being on the losing side. This provides a compelling historical backdrop and sparks off plenty of drama, but essentially the story never veers from exploring the ever-worsening consequences of spoilt little rich kid Scarlett's exploitative behaviour.

And therein lies the genius. Somehow, director Victor Fleming's most successful film (the highest grossing film of all time ever if you adjust for inflation) has us sympathising with a pair of truly atrocious characters. Time and history marches on - the film often jumps ahead several months in the blink of an eye - and yet these two repeatedly fail to redeem themselves. Couple this with an unusually sentimental portrayal of life in the Confederate South, and frame it all in gorgeous cinematography. Gloriously unconventional, and brilliantly executed.

There's some fascinating trivia about the film on IMDb, worth a read.

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