Young Helen Keller, blind, deaf, and mute since infancy, is in danger of being sent to an institution. Her inability to communicate has left her frustrated and violent. In desperation, her parents seek help from the Perkins Institute, which sends them a "half-blind Yankee schoolgirl" named Annie Sullivan to tutor their daughter. Through persistence and love, and sheer stubbornness, Annie breaks through Helen's walls of silence and darkness and teaches her to communicate.Written by
Christina Dunigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Using the vehicle of the story of a blind and deaf girl's discovery of the meaning of words, this film poetically and emotionally celebrates that singular gift we humans possess: language. It also depicts with deep understanding and identification the glory of that early relationship we all have one way or another, that between child and teacher. There's a line that Annie Sullivan speaks about words being our vision "5000 years into the past" that could apply to this film and play: its words are our vision into the silent and sightless world of Helen Keller.
Unlike many period films shot in the sixties, this one was true to its setting. It hasn't dated a bit. And unlike many films of plays, it never seems stagebound. The black and white camerawork and editing, by people who, strangely, had very limited careers, is superb. The dining room scene is one of the most brilliantly shot and edited sequences I have ever seen. The music is subtle when it needs to be and powerfully effective in the big scenes. The use of flashbacks for Annie's troubled past is done artfully, and in a way true to the emotional content of the memories. The acting by Bancroft and Duke is of course legendary, but the supporting roles are equally well played. But it's probably the director Arthur Penn who is most responsible for the film's success. He saw the play through its journey from live television drama to Broadway to film.
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