Uncle Rollo finally retires to the house he was brought up in. Lost in thoughts of his lost love, Lark, he does not want to be disturbed in his last days. However, the appearance of his ...
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Uncle Rollo finally retires to the house he was brought up in. Lost in thoughts of his lost love, Lark, he does not want to be disturbed in his last days. However, the appearance of his niece and the subsequent romance between her and Lark's nephew causes him to reevaluate his life and offer some advice so the young couple don't make the same mistake he did, all those years ago. Written by
Mark Harding <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on March 24, 1949 with David Niven, Teresa Wright and Jayne Meadows reprising their film roles of General Roland Dane, Lark Ingoldsby and Selina Dane respectively. See more »
58 years before "Monster House" - a film about a neighborhood terrorized by a house - there was "Enchantment" (1948); a film narrated by a house. I'm not kidding; the house provides a brief bookend voice-over commentary; introducing the story and then wrapping things up at the conclusion.
Fortunately this house is much better behaved than its 2006 successor because 95% of the film takes place under its roof. The modest set means that second-to-none cinematographer Gregg Toland's expertise is somewhat wasted. There wasn't much for him to apply himself to here other than some interesting lighting and a series of interesting match cut transitions (more about these later).
"Enchantment" is a romance, more precisely two romances as the film tells the story of wartime romances in a London family during both the WWI and WWII. Set in 1944, the film opens with retired General Roland (Rollo) Dane (a convincingly aged David Nivin) pining away over his lost opportunity for true love. Upon the death of his sister Selina he moved back into his boyhood home because it contains memories of his lost love Lark (Teresa Wright). Lark was an orphan his family adopted when she was eight. Rollo and Lark fell in love when they grew up but shrewish sister Selina managed to derail the romance. Lark marries someone else and Rollo pursues a career in the Army. They never see each other again.
Enter niece Grizel (Evelyn Keyes-Scarlett O'Hara's little sister) who comes to wartime London from America. Grizel is an ambulance driver who moves in with her great uncle Rollo. Grizel begins a romance with a wounded Canadian officer named Pax (Farley Granger), who turns out to be Lark's nephew.
Now this may not sound very promising, but "Enchantment" transcends ordinary romantic melodrama by the way in which it tells its tale (and I'm not talking about the talking house). The story is told by cutting back and forth between two parallel romantic story lines taking place in the same house; Rollo and Lark during WWI and Grizel and Pax during WWII. This device works quite well and is worth watching just to see the match cut transitions that move the film back and forth between the two romances. There are ten of these transitions. The camera holds on the door inside Selina's bedroom as the story flashbacks to the same spot 25+ years earlier. Then a place-setting at the dinner table takes the story forward. The transitions continue; using a chandelier, a mantle clock, the fireplace, the sidewalk, and the staircase. But this is more than just a slick editing trick. Each match cut is designed to draw attention to parallels between Grizel and her predecessors in the house. Which is why she is given Selina's old room. The climatic transition does not use the match cut technique, presumably to indicate that the later romance will have a more upbeat outcome than the earlier one.
The final match cut involves a set of house "keys"; probably not a deliberate play on a certain actresses' surname but a symbolic reference (i.e. the key to happiness). The sidewalk transition is the best one as Niven actually morphs into Granger at the same exact point on the sidewalk. This was a dolly tracking shot and the row houses in the background had to line up perfectly (remember this was before digital effects).
For pretty much everyone who has seen"Enchantment", the most memorable images involve eight-year old Lark and ten-year old Rollo; played by real life brother and sister Peter Miles and Gigi Perreau. Gigi totally hijacks the film at this point leaving viewers wishing she had more scenes. Peter (in appearance and style) may remind you of Freddie Highmore ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Finding Neverland").
In fairness to Selina (nicely played by Jayne Meadows), her resentment of the cute little waif is somewhat understandable. Lark immediately brings out the protective instincts of Selina's father and two brothers. Basically supplanting Selina and stealing her destiny.
Niven, Wright, and Keyes are quite good although Keyes never quite sells her shrewish side nor her attraction to Pax. I felt this was mostly due to Granger who was one creepy guy. Hitchcock cast him for his lead in "Rope" for this very quality and while it was an asset in that role it works to everyone's detriment here.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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