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Before Winter Comes (1968)

M | | Comedy, Drama, War | 1968 (UK)
After World War II, in an Austrian camp for displaced people, an interpreter mediates between the British and the Soviets regarding the fate of various refugees.

Director:

J. Lee Thompson

Writers:

Andrew Sinclair (screenplay), Frederick L. Keefe (based on The Interpreter by)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
David Niven ... Major Burnside
Topol ... Janovic
Anna Karina ... Maria
John Hurt ... Lieutenant Pilkington
Anthony Quayle ... Brigadier Bewley
Ori Levy ... Captain Kamenev
John Collin John Collin ... Sergeant Woody
Karel Stepanek ... Count Kerassy
Guy Deghy ... Kovacs
Mark Malicz Mark Malicz ... Komenski
Gertan Klauber Gertan Klauber ... Russian Major
Hana Maria Pravda ... Beata (as Hana-Maria Pravda)
George Innes ... Bill
Tony Selby Tony Selby ... Ted
Hugh Futcher ... Joe
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Storyline

Comedy set in a refugee camp in occupied Austria after World War II. A shrewd multi-lingual interpreter who mediates between Russian and British military brass enters into a friendly rivalry with British Major Giles Burnside, who is in charge of assigning the displaced persons into either the American or Russian zones. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

a rare blend of picture

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | War

Certificate:

M | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

1968 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Quiero ser libre See more »

Filming Locations:

Austria See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor) (uncredited)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Lieutenant Pilkington: You mean, you encourage the men here and the - village women? Why, it's disgusting! It's like animals!
Janovic: In the country, it's always like that.
Lieutenant Pilkington: If-if the Major finds out what they're doing on his ban on fraternization, I-I-I don't know...
Janovic: They do not fraternize! No, they do not fraternize! They - just - sleep - together!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: OCCUPIED AUSTRIA SPRING, 1945 See more »

Soundtracks

I'll Make a Man of You
(uncredited)
Music by Herman Finck
Lyrics by Arthur Wimperis
See more »

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User Reviews

Before he was on the fiddle
31 May 2007 | by OctSee all my reviews

Chaim Topol's career seems to have dwindled into endless revivals of his great role in 'Fiddler on the Roof' (cf Yul Brynner and 'The King and I'). So it's piquant to reconsider his first big break in Hollywood, two years before the film of 'Fiddler' catapulted him to fame.

'Before Winter Comes' highlights the decline of another once-rampant talent, director J. Lee Thompson. It is a mildly diverting entertainment, notable if only for its unusual setting: not World War two but its chaotic and tragic aftermath in four-power-divided Austria, with refugees in camps or roaming the snowy landscape looking for a home.

The centre of the story is an uneasy love/hate liaison. In the blue corner, bored, stiff, combat-nostalgic British senior officer David Niven ('I am nobody's old boy!'). In the red corner, a wily, Schweik-ish ex-Soviet displaced person whose polylinguality recommends him as a go-between when the UK occupying power is trying to co-exist with Stalin's boys as 'firm friends-- friends but firm'.

Niven could by now play a uniformed part asleep, and occasionally seems to have taken that as an order. His career was in low water at the time. It is a quieter part than in most of the ghastly comedies and capers he was doing at the time, but his bland technique is unaltered. Topol is fire to the Briton's ice: winking, grinning, suddenly looking sober and all-business, but how much is sincere and how much the pedlar's spiel? He's adequate, but Zorba-the-Greekishly unidimensional. Perhaps he always wanted to be liked a wee bit too much.

The film begins as lightish comedy, and tries for a change of pace to gravity and Cold War ominousness after Anna Karina insinuates a disturbing element as the love interest. But the gears clash. It looks like an Alistair McLean international adventure with more laughs, sprinkling doughty British thespians generously (Anthony Quayle as a brigadier, an amazingly unravaged John Hurt as a green junior officer) amid the Babel of displacement. Ron Grainer furnishes a whistling-squaddies theme to make you think of 'Bridge on the River Kwai', but the film lacks Lean's dedication to detail in the service of its message. Ultimately any theme deeper than 'Can't we all just get along?' is elusive. Nor is there any 'Great Escape' element to up the suspense.

The script was by Andrew Sinclair, a curious import to movies (Old Etonian, Cambridge academic, author of satirical novels) who sporadically tried to adapt his sour view of Britain to celluloid. The film looks too much 1969 rather than 1945, with Topol heavily hairy and a plethora of flashy zooms from Gilbert Taylor, Thompson's regular collaborator. They had been together, with Quayle, on 'Ice Cold in Alex'... which, alas, shows what a difference eleven years can make.


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