Oct 24, 2011

5 movies in which the tragedy was caused by chance

Yesterday I was re-watching Waterloo Bridge with Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor and started thinking that there aren't many movies in which the main characters, for unexpected reasons completely out of their control, succumb or have to face epic tragedies. These films are unfair with their characters, because even when they're trying to do things the best they can, they end up living a bitter life...or not living at all.

Here's the list of movies I could think of:


Random thing that happens and screws everything: While watching the arrival of new Roman generals, Tirzah, Judah's sister, leans over a loose tile and this tile almost hits an important guy.
The result: The family is imprisoned, ill-treated, separated, the mother and sister are infected with leprosy, Judah must work in a galley as a slave...etc. The only different thing with this one, is they all are reunited in the end and saved by not other than Jesus himself.

The wrong man:
Random thing that happens and screws everything: People mistakenly identify Henry Fonda as a robber.
The result: Henry is prosecuted, he loses his family, his wife ends up in a mental hospital, he starts thinking he's guilty, etc. The ending, with titles, indicates that they were reunited and lived happily ever after, but you end up with a bitter feeling anyway.

Romeo and Juliet: I know, I know, but I had to add it!
Random thing that happens and screws everything: There's a plague in some town, so the letter from Juliet explaining all the super plan to Romeo is not delivered.
The result: Romeo thinks Juliet is really dead and kills himself; then Juliet wakes up and sees her lover dead and kills herself too. I'm sorry, I know this must be shocking news to you!

To each his own: Well, this movie has one of the most "AAAARGHHH!" moments in the history of cinema. To the understand it you must know that:
  • Olivia de Havilland lost her handsome lover in the war. 
  • She is pregnant but she doesn't tell anyone.
  • To avoid all the criticism of her stupid gossipy town, she makes a plan.
  • She asks a nurse to leave her baby at a neighbor door. This neighbor has so many kids that's just fed up with them. She will go there and "adopt" the new infant.
  • Everything goes swimmingly. The neighbor has approved the adoption and Olivia goes to buy some clothes.
Random thing that happens and screws everything: JUST in that moment, the wife of a friend of Olivia loses her baby during labor, so the mentioned neighbor decides to give the child to them.
The result: Olivia must live a bitter life away from her kid.

Waterloo Bridge:
Random thing that happens and screws everything: Vivien Leigh reads the newspaper and sees the name of her fiancé among the "fallen officers". The only problem is that the information was WRONG and was the product of a lost dog tag.
The result: Depressed Vivien can't find any formal job to survive so she becomes a prostitute (and loses contact with her mother in law); then, when she discovers her fiancé was alive, she thinks she's not longer worthy of him, so she kills herself.

So, that's it... can you think in more movies in which random, external, practically "trivial" factors like those mentioned make the main characters succumb? 

PS: Movies like An affair to remember don't count, because the whole dilemma is very well solved at the end. 


  1. Hola Clara, la única que no he visto es la de Olivia de Havilland. El puente de Waterloo es TAN TRISTE. No se si se puede añadir a esta lista La Solterona de Bette Davis.

  2. Esa de Olivia de Havilland no la he visto.
    A ver, que piense un poco...
    No sé... En muchos melodramas o dramas hay "casualidades" de ese tipo, ¿no? Incluso en las pelis de cine negro, al final se atrapa al ladrón o al asesino por alguna "casualidad" que comete algún personaje ajeno a la situación... Pero el caso es que ahora estoy como con la mente en blanco.
    Esto... Hay una de Stevens, Penny Serenade... Pero al final tiene como "final feliz" porque les vuelven a dar un crío en adopción... Así que no valdría...
    No tengo el día.

  3. Clara, great idea for a blog post! It drives me nuts when movie plots end needlessly tragically! The film ATONEMENT is rather like that, as is ODD MAN OUT. Among the films you cited here, Hitchcock's THE WRONG MAN always gets me in the gut, since it's not only a true story, but one that took place in my hometown of New York City. I agree that even though things come around in the end, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth because of the circumstances, and I really feel for everyone in the film; it's kind of a docudrama, really. Excellent post, my friend!

  4. Lola, perdón por la tardanza en la respuesta! Yo recomiendo la de Olivia de Havilland, "To each his own", muy buena su actuación y muy bueno el maquillaje para mostrarla como una mujer más madura en varias escenas. Es triste, pero muy interesante. Sí, como dices "Waterloo Bridge" es triste con mayúsculas, tan terrible y todo por una estúpida equivocación! Respecto a "La Solterona", también lo pensé, pero yo buscaba para esta lista equivocaciones o accidentes más triviales. Muchas gracias de todos modos y muchas gracias por visitarme siempre, de verdad! Que tengas una linda semana :)

  5. Hola David, qué bueno leerte por aquí nuevamente. Perdón por la tardanza en mi respuesta...bueno, primero, te recomiendo la de Olivia de Havilland, "To each his own", principalmente por su actuación y por el trabajo de maquillaje que hicieron con ella en ciertas escenas para hacerla parecer mayor. Respecto a las pelis con casualidades triviales como estas, que marquen la trama completamente de manera negativa, de verdad, no se me ocurrieron más tampoco...."Penny Serenade", como dices, tiene un final feliz. Bueno, gracias por el comentario y por leerme :) Que tengas una buena semana!

  6. Thank you Dorian and sorry for the delay in my reply! Yeah, you're right, Atonement is a modern example of these kind of movies in which the tragedy happens by a stupid mistake or trivial accident. I haven't seen "Odd Man Out", sounds great, thanks for the recommendation! Thanks again, I'm very grateful for all your support, girl! Have a great week :)



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