The Portuguese colony of Macao in the 19th century. Mr. Clay is a very rich merchant and the subject of town gossip. He has spent many years in China and is now quite old. He likes his clerk Levinsky to read the company's accounts to him at night for relaxation. Tonight Mr. Clay recounts a true story he heard years before about a rich man who paid a poor sailor 5 guineas to father a child with his beautiful young wife. Levinsky says that's a popular old sailor's legend and not true. Mr. Clay has no heir for his fortune and no wife either. He resolves to make the story true... Levinsky approaches Virginie, another clerk's mistress, and strikes a bargain for 300 guineas. Now to find the sailor...Written by
Orson Welles originally planned for this film to be made as part of an anthology of adaptations of stories by Karen Blixen. Originally made for French TV, it was later released in theaters. This movie is available on DVD from The Criterion Collection. See more »
After Levinsky pays Virginie, she removes the shawl from the table but it can be seen still on the table in shots of Levinsky. See more »
Several have pointed out that The Immortal Story is based on a novel by Isak Dinesen, as the credits state. As I watched it, and learned that Paul and Virginie are the names of the lovers, I recalled that at least two French works have been written with the title: Paul et Virginie. A play by Jean Cocteau, and a novel by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, who lived 1737-1814. I wonder if Welles (or Dinesen?) might have been influenced by those works, or at least the Saint-Pierre, but I can't tell any real similarity in the plots, perhaps in the poignant tone of the love story. The Saint-Pierre novel is a pastoral about two children who were brought up on an exotic island (Mauritius?) as brother and sister (although they are not). Virginie is sent away to France to become educated and society-worthy, and to separate the children. But she insists on returning to Paul, her true love, and dies in a shipwreck before she gets back to the island. Young love thwarted.
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