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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Some Thoughts on an Old Movie

This is Steven Petrick posting.

As has often been noted, I tend to watch a lot of old movies because of Tivo. It gives me the option to easily record them and view them later. Having majored in History (albeit with a decided bent to things military) I find it interesting to look at the films in the eras in which they were crafted. The way things are presented.

Recently I watched a 1959 film titled "The Angry Hills." I thought it would be about the Greek resistance after the Germans and Italians occupied the country. And it sort of was (although the only attempt at armed resistance ends in disaster, massacre, and atrocity).

While the main thrust of the film is the transmission of a list of Greek patriots to the allies, a list of Greeks who are willing to "collaborate" with the occupiers and be seen as traitors so that they can gather information for the allies, it is really about something else.

Yes, the main character evolves, from not caring or wanting the responsibility, to being motivated by the sacrifices of others to deliver the list if he can.

His foe evolves as well.

His foe is a Gestapo man. And, oh yea he is a villain. He is the one that orders that the Greeks who attempted to raid a munitions dump are all killed rather than taken prisoner. He is the one that sees that the orders for reprisals against the villages the men came from are carried out.

Yet he is also the one who understands that force and violence are not always the correct answer. He is the one who reins in his Greek Collaborator who is eager to beat another Greek for information and gets the information by using a little psychology.

In the end, he fails and the hero escapes with the list.

But rather than lashing out at those around him, at the person who betrayed him, he shows compassion and urges her (she turns out to be his ex-wife, and while he had stated he was willing to kill "their" children to complete his assigned task, to do his duty, on learning she has betrayed him so that they may escape with the hero while she is sacrificing herself for their children) to leave. To not be near him when his superiors arrive to deal with his failure. A trace of humanity and admission that he did still love her and their children.

He could certainly have had her arrested and interrogated immediately to determine who had helped the hero and their children escape, but he does not lash out.

Still, the film fails in one major sense (in my view) because near the end a character comes  out of the woodwork. Someone the woman apparently knows but has not been anywhere else in the film, and suddenly is the key man who arranges the hero's and the children's escape. And even he says he does not know why except that he is doing something different than he normally would. At one point saying,to the Greek Collaborator he is holding prisoner to keep him from warning the Gestapo man of what is going on after the Collaborator asks if he can save him, that he does not even know if he will be able to save himself for getting involved.