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Monday, 21 January 2013

Classic Film Review: Anastasia (1956)

Anastasia stars Yul Brynner as General Bounine, an opportunistic businessman who has been searching for the perfect face to carry off the perfect fraud - he will produce the Grand Duchess Anastasia and take a share of the money that comes along with the claim. He plucks a suicidal woman from the banks of the Seine and convinces her to play the part. It helps that Anna (Ingrid Bergman) has already professed to be Anastasia during her time in an asylum. In fact, she seems to believe she is the Grand Duchess and gives a performance so enticing that even her critics are convinced. However, will she be able to convince the Dowager Empress (Helen Hayes)?

Ingrid Bergman is captivating in this film from her first appearance as a destitute woman through to the finale. The 'truth' becomes irrelevant as you watch the slightly mad woman do battle with Bounine and his friends, along with anybody else who tries to use her as a pawn. Brynner also puts in a very good performance as the impassive Russian who still manages to betray some of his feelings later in the film. The supporting cast is also good, in particular Martita Hunt as Baroness Elena von Livenbaum.

With filming locations in Britain, France and Denmark, Anastasia makes for sumptuous viewing. There are a few technical glitches with dubbing becoming more than evident but, overall, it maintains the illusion of 1920s decadence very well, particularly in contrast to the destitute Anna. However, I do have one major gripe pertaining to the ending. If you've spent the entire film hinting at a potential romance between two characters and those two characters get their 'happy' ending, at least have the decency to show it on screen and not have it reported by other characters. While I understand why the decision was made it still jars given how much time has been dedicated over the film to showing the evolving relationship.

Nevertheless, Anastasia  is a good film, primarily because of Bergman's performance. It's hardly a profound film but no less enjoyable because of it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I bought a DVD copy of this at a second hand store in Canada three years ago, and I love it. While I like the animated feature from 1997 just as much, I think I'm a little more partial to this version, mostly because you didn't have that albino bat that doesn't really do much of anything in the movie or that cartoony bad guy who literally keeps falls apart. I also would have to agree that the romance between Brynner and Bergman should have been shown and not told. Give Don Bluth credit for actually showing Anya and Dimitri kissing on screen.