Ahhh, the holidays. The season where you feel socially compelled to buy and eat. A lot. The season where you ask little kids if they believe in Santa and they don't. But you do. Kind of. The season where you listen to Christmas songs and they finally make sense (yep, I listen to Christmas music all the year, The Elf soundtrack is amazing).
Seems that it was also the season where people returned home from the war or jail and a
little brat not so little Shirley Temple was there to point her judgmental finger at you.
What a great movie I'll be seeing you is (and what a great song it has). It's a film that, just like The best years of our lives, shows what war does to people, without even showing the battlefield, without any patriotic speeches given by a character looking to the horizon. It also shows the life of the people who stayed, old people, young people, some showing the calmness that being accustomed to resignation projects, others trying to help with written messages of hope for people fighting abroad. And, very surprisingly, it also tells the story of a imprisoned woman that is paying for a mistake, an accident, even when the result wasn't her fault.
Director William Dieterle (Portrait of Jennie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and the writers constructed a measured movie. It feels real.
It shows people that laughs at the table at spontaneous, not so funny jokes. People that try to maintain their dignity even when their circumstances are difficult and not always succeed. Characters, like Shirley's, that aren't sweet and kind, because usually adolescents are not. They have too many things to deal with. Ginger, the inmate that goes home for the holidays, tries to combine her few clothes to look normal for a while and makes an effort to answer difficult questions, overlook prejudices...or just tries to hide her situation from new acquaintances. And one night Joseph Cotten, the troubled soldier, tries to control his mental and physical scars, to calm down, talking to himself, but completely fails, and just lays there, sweaty, tired.
There are so many moments from this movie that stay in your mind. For example, the dog attack is so well filmed that the scene shocks you, just like reality. It occurs without warning, in a moment that was preceded by a calm walk, with no suspense music. The actors are so well in they roles that you empathize with their humanity (after watching this film, my dad said that Ingrid Bergman is no longer his favorite actress).
And it happens to be Christmas time, and everyone is making an effort to forget and smile, to share a supper, a song, a present, a smile. Whatever. Because sometimes life is tough and you just have each other to hang on. And, sometimes, like in I'll be seeing you, life smiles you back, even if it's for a moment, outside the prison where you live.
----Written for Sally's 12 Days of Christmas movies. Have a great Christmas people, enjoy yourselves and leave milk & cookies for Santa!!