Nobody Ever Lies About Being Lonely

Posted: 07/08/2013 in 1953

from here to eternity

There is no doubt that Fred Zinnemann’s From Here to Eternity will be one of the most talked about and acclaimed, if not the most talk about and acclaimed, films of the year.   There is no denying that this just may be the strongest contender for Best Picture.  The reality is that even the best films of this year have had flaws that could hold them back from being considered the very best by the end of the year.  Pickup on South Street in parts is too unlikely, Stalag 17 in parts is too zany, the boy in Shane in parts is too annoying, and The Moon is Blue in parts is sometimes too overtly sexist.   From Here to Eternity, however, does not waiver, does not stumble, and does not miss.  This is going to be a difficult film for viewers to find flaws with.  Sure, it could be said that the main characters lack likability, but the cast is so flawless that I believe most would agree that they’re being played perfectly.  I have let a few days go by before writing this review so as to not senselessly rave until a turn red.  The fact is, though, that I’m still haunted by the script, the stories, and the characters of this film.

Films do not direct themselves, and hopefully reviewers remember that come year’s end.  Directing such a talky picture such as this takes major talent and artistry.  This is, after all, a Pearl Harbor film.  But Mr. Zinnemann really throws us off be immersing us in the lives of his very flawed, very human characters on the eve of one of America’s darkest days.  The brilliance of his directing is not in his portrayal of the actual attacks but in making us forget that they are even coming because we are so engrossed in his storytelling and his characters.  In the end we don’t even care that the bombing of Pearl Harbor was not the highlight of the film because we are still thinking about Private Prewitt and Sgt. Warden and Karen and Lorene and Maggio and Fatso.  We are thankful that Mr. Zinnemann reminds us what a state of disarray the military was in before the attacks and how much and how quickly it had to adjust itself.  The original novel this is not, but Daniel Taradash’s adaptation of James Jones’ classic piece is pitch perfect within the bounds of censorship, and he deserves much praise as well for this achievement.

This is acting at a very high level.  Burt Lancaster balanced responsible man and sleaze ball so well.  Deborah Kerr is wonderful playing against type as the rather seductive Karen.  Donna Reed is enchanting as the tragic Lorene.  However, it is Frank Sinatra and Montgomery Clift that really make this film come alive for me.  Who knew that Old Blue Eyes was capable of the caliber performance.  Maggio is so well played by Sinatra as he begs us to sympathize deeply with his character.  We sigh for him, we laugh with him, and we feel his pain.  In a year of amazing supporting acting performances this one is very close to the top of the list if not at the very top when all is said and done.  Sinatra makes this a film we have a hard time shaking off.  However, it will be forever impossible to completely shake because of the work of Montgomery Clift.  I would be very surprised if there is a better performance to come out of this year.  Truthfully, Marlon Brando is just as good, but Clift makes this his film, and this is a more authentic lead performance.    See this film for Mr. Clift please!  His Prewitt will be without a doubt one of the most memorable characters to come from this year.  So fascinating is his martyr complex, and its always real, always believable, always true.  Lancaster and Kerr get the iconic love seen, but never forget, this is Montgomery Clift’s film.  Without him, the magic on screen would have never been possible.

The acting is perfect, the directing is spot on, the writing is concise and fast-moving despite the talkative nature of the film, and the cinematography is the best of the year.  For all these reasons and more, let the raves continue to flow throughout the year for From Here to Eternity.  

**** ~AOS

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