Captain Ahab's descent into madness destroys everyone around him. This powerful character drew John Barrymore, Orson Wells and John Huston. This film has been called the best, most authentic version of Herman Melville's MOBY DICK.
An intriguing, but finally unsatisfactory film, that looks at the background of Captain Ahab in Moby Dick. In five episodes, we see Ahab through the eyes of five people- his father, his aunt, Mulligan, a preacher who helps him, Anna, his lover, and Starbuck, the Pequod's mate. Each episode is interesting, but they don't hold together as a whole. At the end we don't believe that this accumulation- his father's refusal to take him hunting, his father's death, the religiously inspired cruelty of his aunt and her husband, his encounter with a couple of criminals who've come from Huckleberry Finn, his spiritual division between the sea and religion, his affair with the laundress Anna- explains or shows the monomaniac Ahab of Melville emerges from this history. We are shown nothing of Ahab in his days of glory as the greatest whale-killer in Nantucket, only his young childhood and his life after he loses his leg.
It's a stylised film- the characters speak in Melvillean language- not always reflected in the English subtitles- with some extraordinary shots, a good use of noise and music and a wonderful performance by the child who plays the child Ahab, marred by a little obviousness in ostentatious symbolism, a need to show rather than let us infer, some ignorance or nineteenth century new England- the two priests are portrayed as a French-style Roman Catholic village priest and a humane missionary, rather than as the Father Mapple of Moby Dick or the Calvinists who inspired him- unless Mulligan is the same man with his name changed for some reason.
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