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I went to see this film when I was about 15 yrs old. It made a big impression on me because I was very idealistic then. The film was honestly and earnestly made, straight as a die, that was its charm. The fact is it only cost 1/- to get in the cinema to see it. In todays money that is about 5p. The film belongs in that era of course, the fifties. I have never fogotten the little boy in court trying to decide which parent he should choose to be with. He conveyed the correct personal inner torment of knowing he should choose his real mother, but being so used to his adoptive one.
It shows how superficial my expectations are of a black and white film that
I only watched this because I was ill, and it was either this, a cooking
show or "Take the High Road" (an awful Scottish Soap.
What I found was a film full of believable characterisations that was not afraid to tackle a very difficult subject, where the true mother of a Yugoslavian boy raised by German foster parents during the Second World War returns to reclaim her child ten years later.
What makes the subject matter so difficult is the way in which the boy comes to be made available for adoption through the attrocities of the war. The two flashbacks are very well done, making you care about both of the women and the love they feel for the child - the subdued Yugoslav mother, speaking through an interpreter, refusing to betray her emotions in public having been scarred by her experiences, (I thought the short scene where she is in the church looking at Mary and baby Jesus was very revealing) and the German woman who has raised the child during his formative years.
The three judges from the American Control Commission are called upon to make the impossible decision, and the judgements that each of them decide, though different, ring true.
I was surprised by the abruptness of the ending, wishing to see what Toni would do in later year, but that is my only criticism of this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE DIVIDED HEART is a touching and often very moving account of a
10-year-old boy who had been adopted as a 3-year-old child after World War
II by a German couple (played by Cornell Borchers and Armin
The family lives in a Bavarian Alpine village where the boy, Toni, an intelligent and sensitive lad, goes to school, enjoys skiing, and could not be any happier. Toni's 10th birthday party is interrupted by a man and a woman from the International Refugee Organization.
They bring the unsettling news that Toni was in fact Ivan Slavko, a Yugoslav, and his mother Sonja is alive and wants her son back. The question posed by the film is the obvious and painful one. Should the child be allowed to live with the adoptive parents who raised him and love him or with this "stranger" who is his mother in the flesh?
It becomes the task of the postwar U.S. Court of the Allied High Commission for Germany to determine justice, a justice that must inevitably be accompanied by injustice to either real or adoptive parents.
(SPOILERS FOLLOW). This is a film without villains, save war itself which separates children from parents. In the courtroom episode during which the custody of the child is determined, the judge acknowledges with humane wisdom the tragic aspects of the issue. The real mother is awarded the custody of the child.
"It is time," says the court,"for the son to give love to a mother rather than receive it. By returning the boy to his real mother, we are giving the custody of the mother to the son rather than the son to the mother."
The movie is sensitively directed by Charles Crichton and performed by a remarkable ensemble of performers, especially Cornell Borchers as the adoptive mother and Yvonne Mitchell as the real mother, but the film belongs to child actor Michel Ray who gives the role subtle nuances and comprehension not normally associated with child performers. One of the reasons he landed the role is that he could ski (as we see him do in opening sequences.) Later in life Michel Ray, As Michel de Carvalho, achieved some fame as a medal-winning Olympic skier and was immensely successful in the world of business.
I awarded this film 6/10 having seen it today 20/8/15 on "London Live"
TV station who have been running a season of Ealing films from 2.00p.m
on most weekdays.For a 69 year old this was the first time I saw this
film which I found moving when a 10 year old Slovenian boy has to
decide with whom he should live, either his natural mother or German
adoptive parents.World War II caused many sad cases of orphans who had
lost either or both their natural parents and a legal section of the
U.S. War Commission as occupying country in West Germany had to make
the decision whether to repatriate children once their natural parents
had been found.This was decided in the film by a trio of international
judges standing in for King Soloman.
Yvonne Mitchell plays the Slovenian mother and I was impressed how she appeared to speak Slovanese and even Geoffrey Keen who played the administrator who mediates between the rival mothers.I assume a real Slovenian did the voice track with Yvonne lip-syncing to the spoken sound track.It would have been more realistic however if the German adoptive parents had spoken German in their scenes together.No spoiler from me about which of the mothers won the custody battle but the moral arguments from the three judges I found convincing.
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