A cardinal is arrested for treason against the state. As a prince of his church, and a popular hero of this people, for his resistance against the Nazis during the war and afterward his ... See full summary »
A cardinal is arrested for treason against the state. As a prince of his church, and a popular hero of this people, for his resistance against the Nazis during the war and afterward his resistance when his country again fell to a totalitarian conquerer. In prison, his interrogator is determined to get a confession of guilt against the state from the strong willed man, and thus destroy his power over his people. The verbal and psychological battles are gripping and powerful - not even the increasing pressures put upon the Cardinal can force him to weaken; not even solitary confinement, continuous blazing light in his cell, sleeplessness, efforts to persuade him he is going mad. And yet, in the deepening conflict, the superb indomitable prisoner, creates a tremendous pity on his tormentor, the interrogator. Written by
Though the wonderful Wilfred Lawson gives a good turn as a jailer, this is basically a two-man show, based on a play. The two men are fine actors: Alec Guinness, as the beloved Cardinal arrested by the state in a generic Eastern European Cold War setting; and Jack Hawkins, as the state inquisitor, trying to coerce the Cardinal into making untrue confessions for a show trial.
Both men are brilliant, though Guinness is perhaps too impenetrable, not only for his inquisitors, but for the audience. Hawkins' character and Guinness's worked together in the Resistance against the Nazis; since then, Hawkins has become a high Communist official trying to eradicate the church from public life.
At first, the movie seems like a cat-and-mouse game between two fanatics, though erudite and educated fanatics, one believing in the church and the other in the ultimate power of the state. Hawkins keeps his well-practiced geniality, though, while Guinness, under mental torture (Hawkins knew Guinness had suffered physical torture under the Nazis and was inured to it) begins to show cracks.
While the movie is hardly a cliff-hanger, and doesn't discuss religion or even totalitarianism in any great depth, the performances by the leads are intense, and worth watching for the acting alone, even though one may be puzzled by what it's all about.
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