A concert pianist with amnesia fights to regain her memory.A concert pianist with amnesia fights to regain her memory.A concert pianist with amnesia fights to regain her memory.A concert pianist with amnesia fights to regain her memory.A concert pianist with amnesia fights to regain her memory.
All nitpicking and analysis aside, it told a compelling story, albeit, in the genre of other stories or a universal theme, involving a over-possessive mentor and protégé--similar to the stories of the Phantom of the Opera or My Fair Lady (Pygmalion.)
But, so what? It got my attention. It was good story telling with compelling acting. It reeled me in, and I willingly went with the flow.
I think it should not be compared to our modern day standards of psychology, perhaps, or our understanding of what hypnosis does or doesn't provide for a patient. Maybe, we need to simply view it from the perspective of that era or day. Fit into the shoes of the moviegoer in the mid 1940s, instead.
Using back flashes, hypnosis to reveal the patient's (Francesca James) history, in order to unravel the reason for Francesca's "catatonic" state or phobic fear of playing piano, works well as a tool.
We experience the natural unraveling of the main characters plight through a compelling story about Francesca Cunningham (Ann Todd), a concert pianist's life so far, and how her past reveals the likely causes for her current mental state.
The austere scenes including the stately home of Nicholas, demonstrating wealth with no heart, the concert halls, are excellent settings for the interaction between the players and their characters. It all provided rich fodder for building their characters--though there was only time for quick studies in the movie.
The character of Francesca carried quite a heavy bag of deep rooted emotions--between her desire for music, for love with a man, her compulsion to stay put under the tutelage and power of Nicholas, her guardian (James Mason), intertwined or constricted by her ambivalent feelings and inner turmoil.
She appears to show an ambivalent, resistance to her guardian's obsessive or "stay or go" attitude, which ultimately leads to her breakdown and suicide attempt.
From the first days when Francesca, a fourteen year old young woman who is left as an orphan, arrives at his home, Nicholas thrusts her into his personal web or emotional prison--holding her hostage to his own desires for music and achievement. He drives her, unrelentingly and abusively, to achieve music excellence as a career, concert pianist.
It appears to be for her ultimate good, as he points out repeatedly over the years of her emotional captivity. Or we are led to consider that in fact, it is because of his own agenda as an embittered man and unfulfilled musician himself.
Against her will, in the beginning, Cousin Nicholas, forces or compels her to study and practice piano.She, therefore, studies for years under his "driven" and austere direction--avoiding relationships and normal activities. Her inner life is stunted.
Everything in her life appears to be based on her guardian's demands and the power he seems to have over her. She relinquishes all interest or desire to have a normal life, until she meets and is pursued and wooed by the character played by Peter Gay, an American musician living in England. He breaks through her barrier of shyness and austerity.
To some movie reviewers or critics, this may be a over the top, stylized or melodramatic film, but it is intense and there is a mood created by the sets.
We get the picture of her life with James Mason, Cousin Nicolas, who plays the part with his ever-present aloofness and sinister delivery. Ann Todd is fine. She doesn't reveal much through her dialogue, but looks can say a lot, as they say. The eyes have it.
The music is incredible, and after perusing the web, I finally discovered who was her double as the pianist, Eileen Joyce, who didn't get any credit in the film for her superb playing which made the film a winner. In any case, Ann Todd did a great job of faking it as the real pianist.
The cast of characters, including the Doctor, Herbert Lom, the portrait artist, the American musician, and of course, James Mason as the overly dominant and and cold-hearted, Nicholas, et al, do their parts in unwinding or weaving this tale.
In the end the Seventh Veil is not only lifted from Francesca, but also from Nicholas as her mentor, and subsequent savior of sorts. She returns to him as her trustee and real love. A little melodrama from British films in the 1940s never hurt anyone. It's fun also.
Frankly, if you enjoy classic films, and if you just want to enjoy the ambiance and storyline, and don't want to analyze too much, this is a fine film for an old fashioned, classic movie night at at home, along with friends. Curl up and enjoy. I highly recommend it.
- Aug 15, 2006