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Dolores del Rio,
In Acadia, now part of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, young Evangeline is betrothed to Gabriel. But before their wedding can take place, the British imprison the men and send them into exile with their lands forfeit to the Crown. Evangeline follows the exiled men in hopes of finding her beloved, but even after he and the other Acadians are released in Louisiana, she cannot find him, always arriving at some locale just after he has departed. But she dedicates her life to searching the continent for the man she loves. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A little-known American epic masterpiece - contains spoiler
As a French-Canadian from Québec, I admit this story has always been in my consciousness but I never read Longfellow's poem, whose fictitious heroin has become the symbol of the Acadian people's struggle for recognition inside a mostly English-speaking Canadian province (New Brunswick), has a French-language newspaper named after her in Canada and is the subject of a very famous statue, which is a landmark of Maritime tourism.
This film is truly epic. The DVD version shows an absolutely pristine print with superb photography, tinting, incredible camera movement and versatility, easily equaling any blockbuster that followed or preceded it in grandeur, drama and number of participants. The scenes of the deportation of the neutral Acadians (1755) by the wicked British soldiers are stupendous and unforgettable: they out-Eisenstein Eisenstein in the depiction of the first modern military peace-time atrocity committed on an undefended civilian population, for which England still bears a burden of guilt, right alongside the massacres it later committed on undefended civilian populations in Ireland and India. (Longfellow's poem remains a piece of Anti-British propaganda and a gesture of friendship towards French-Canadians who had suffered much more from the English presence than the Americans ever had.)
I don't know how faithful the film is to the poem but (spoiler!) the separated lovers, Evangéline and Gabriel, are finally reunited, long years after their brutal deportation, in a Philadelphia hospital where she has become a Sister of Mercy and he is one of the sick during an epidemic.
This love story is told in an absolutely Romantic fashion, in idyllic scenery with lots and lots of pastoral touches equating Acadia with "Arcadia". (The contrast between the time before the deportation and the diaspora of Acadians is similar in nature to the one before the first and second parts of "Gone With The Wind".) Évangéline (Dolores del Rio) is the only woman in the principal cast and she is surrounded by some of the dreamiest male lumberjack specimens Hollywood has ever cared to dress up in long trousers.
The original music score and sound effects track is preserved on Vitaphone records that sound remarkably fresh, during 80 % of the 90 min running time. The missing parts of the soundtrack is faithfully reconstructed by a small instrumental ensemble. Dolores del Rio even sings an original (dubbed?) song, "Love Me Forever", to her ailing lover. As a missing Vitaphone record at the beginning of the movie prevents us from having heard her voice the first time she sings this song in the "happy" first part of their courtship (after Gabriel has had a crack at it), it comes as quite a nice surprise at the end. The film score incorporates many lovely authentic French folk songs and, all in all, there is no questioning the seriousness, dedication and talent of everybody involved in this project, which would probably be better known and admired if the talkies hadn't invaded the scene just at that time.
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