Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mrs. Miniver (1942)



“This is the people's war! It is our war! We are the fighters! Fight it then! Fight it with all that is in us, and may God defend the right.” 

            If I could major change my major I would major in film studies with a concentration on 1930s Pre-codes and films made during World War II. Films made during WWII are fascinating to look at today. They teach us so much about the time and what the people went through. Just read the behind the scenes information about certain films and you will be amazed that some of these films were made the way they were. I read about the making of Casablanca and it was incredible because I had never read about films made during WWII, I had no idea how much they reflected the times and how they were used as propaganda. Mrs. Miniver is one of the best films to come out of the 1940s, its story is so moving and touching and one of the best made films I have ever seen.
            Kay Miniver (Greer Garson) lives with her family in a small town in the suburb of a coast town in England. She has a husband named Clem (Walter Pidgeon) and three children Vin, Judy, and Toby. The oldest Vin has just come home from college. Kay cannot believe how her son has grown into a man and cannot take her eyes of off him. The next day a young girl named Carol Beldon (Teresa Wright) comes to the house to talk to them about a flower show. Her grandmother has won the flower show and is afraid to lose to a station master who has named his rose the Mrs. Miniver after Kay. Vin does not like her at first but that night at a dance he asked her to dance with him and they fall in love.
            At church the next morning a man comes running in telling the vicar that the Germans have invaded Poland and war has been declared. Vin joins the RAF. Eight months later he transferred to a base near the family home. While on leave, goaded by his little brother after he called Vin a coward for not proposing, Vin asks Carol to marry him. Right after he proposes he gets a call that he is needed at the base. Clem also gets a call very early the next morning to report for patrol. His boat is needed to save troops at Dunkirk.
            For five days Kay is home by herself left nervous not knowing where her son and husband are or how they are. She goes out in the garden on the fifth day and sees a German soldier on the ground. She kneels down to pick up the gun but the soldier opens his eyes, gets up and starts chasing her to her house. The soldier holds Kay at gunpoint demanding he get her food and a coat. Before the German can leave he faints from the pain in his broken arm. Kay takes the gun away from him and calls the police. A few moments after the police take the soldier away she hears the sound of Clem’s boat pulling up. Vin also comes home that day.
            Although their home was damaged during a raid the Miniver’s life is going as well as it could. Vin has married Carol and the rose named after Mrs. Miniver won first prize at a flower show. On the way home from the flower show tragedy unfortunately strikes the family but it is not what you would expect.
            I do not even know where to begin to explain how incredible this film was. Everything about it was outrageously well done.
            Greer Garson won the Academy Award for her performance and deserved it so much. The scene where the German soldier chases her into her home she was great. The character had to be as quiet and cool as possible and that is exactly what Garson did. You can feel how cool Kay was and feel that underneath she was totally afraid. When Toby comes downstairs after the whole incident and she holds him in her arms she kind of breaks down and we as the audience breathe a sigh of relief with her. Garson and Walter Pidgeon were excellent together this was the second of their eight pairings. They were just great as husband and wife you can believe they were a real couple, they were very good actors with a great friendship off screen.
            The supporting cast was ok. Richard Ney who played Vin was annoying and so was the little kid who played Toby. Teresa Wright is never anything to brag about although she won for Best Supporting Actress.
            The direction by William Wyler blew me away. His direction along with the cinematography made the film feel at times like a Noir especially when the German soldier is in the house and there is a deep focus on the gun and at the end when Kay and Carol are in the car together. There are so many scenes I liked because they were so well filmed but I would give almost all the film away. Wyler and cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg also won an Academy Award.
            I found there to be much symbolism in the film. In one scene in a local bar some men are listening to a German broadcasting to the British people that his country will defeat there’s, basically trying to demoralize the Britons. The men know that what the German is saying is a load of crap. At the end of the film when the Miniver family is in church the camera pans up- the roof is missing but despite this people have come to church and the vicar keeps preaching. There are other scenes with much symbolism but again I am not giving them away.
            Mrs. Miniver is such a fantastic film. You feel like you have known the characters forever because right off the bat when the film starts they are just very likable. This was the first time a film had won six Academy Awards also including Best Writing/Screenplay. Mrs. Miniver deserved every nomination and every award it won. I enjoyed this film very much especially because after I visited London last summer and learned what the British went through. I have been so used to learning the American side of WWII that learning a European side was so interesting. In some ways I was able to understand the situation of Mrs. Miniver and that made the film much more enjoyable.
            Mrs. Miniver is one of the best films to come out of the World War II period. This is a must see for any film lover.