8 July 2011 | murtaza_mma
A Potpourri of Vestiges Review: An American magnum opus which must be watched and often, and by those who understand cinema
Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, in its true essence, is a case study on the Old American way of living where pride and honor were the very essence of human existence. Victor Fleming's rendition of the classic novel, a classic within its own right, does full justice to the themes propagated by Mitchell's evocative masterpiece. In the words of Mitchell herself, Gone with the Wind is the story of the people whose gift of gumption gave them a definitive edge to endure the tribulation and throes of the American Civil War vis-à-vis those who lacked an inner resolve and determination needed for survival.
Scarlet O'Hara, the well bred, haughty, tempestuous and opportunistic protagonist of the saga, is an ostensibly flawed individual whose inexorable urge to placate her ego and realize her fancies appears far stronger than her adherence to any credence pious to her people and relevant to her time. Her scintillating charm and unrestrained zeal not only make her an object of desire for her male counterparts but also an object of envy for the girls around her.
Vivian Leigh perfectly fits into the caricature of Scarlet O'Hara. She makes full use of her talent, courage and guile to portray a part that requires subtlety, brusqueness and poise in equal parts. It may sound like a hyperbole, but no other actress seemed better equipped to play the part a southern belle than Leigh herself, who won not one but two Oscars while playing one: first for her portrayal of Scarlet O'Hara and second for portraying Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire opposite Marlon Brando. In fact, her portrayal of Scarlet O'Hara, in which she perfectly blends panache, poignancy and peremptoriness, is arguably the greatest portrayal by a female lead in cinematic history. Leigh uses her on-stage experience to improvise in order to add new dimensions and complexities to Scarlet's caricature, which according to the novel was mostly one dimensional: out-and-out bad. Scarlet's stubbornness and her impish obsession for a conformist like Ashley, who is not only indifferent to her feelings but also incapable of reciprocating the passion and zeal with which she pursues him, represent just one dimension of her multifaceted self, which is revealed layer by layer with the progression of the narrative. The viewer is gifted to see Scarlet in various avatars: a usurper, an egomaniac, a damsel, a nemesis, a menace, a guardian, a savior, a patriot, a fighter and most importantly as a quintessence of womanhood.
Clark Gable as Rhett Butler perfectly complements Vivian Leigh's larger than life portrayal. He is an outright reprobate, an unscrupulous opportunist whose life revolves around making money and pursuing carnal pleasures. However, behind this facade, just like Scarlet, there is a human capable of love, and worthy of being loved. These unobtrusive yet obvious similarities make Scarlet and Rhett a perfect match for each other. The subtle chemistry and tension between the two protagonists give the story its impetus and resonant charm. The rest of the cast has given exemplary performances with a special mention of Olivia de Havilland, who as Melanie is a paragon of love, humility and forgiveness. She provides a striking contrast to Scarlet's caricature and represents a more traditional picture of womanhood.
The movie's direction, cinematography, editing and music are all top notch and it is the great synergy of all these elements that makes the movie an extravaganza and an undisputed master piece, one to be savored till eternity. The movie is an amalgam of scenes, high on emotion and drama, which keeps the viewer absorbed throughout. The scene in which Scarlet's father tells her the importance of mother land, deeming it as the only thing worth fighting for, is pure gold. Other scenes that come close to matching its brilliance include the one in which Scarlet performs the duties of an obstetrician to help Melanie give birth to her child, and the one in which Scarlet pledges to protect Tara till her last breath. The movie also has an amazing repertoire of dialogs that are delivered with a nice mix of finesse and accuracy. Butler's famous dialog in which he says to Scarlet, "You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how," also happens to be one of all time favorite.
The movie, especially its anti-climatic ending, brings tears to eyes and leaves the viewer overwhelmed as he experiences a rainbow of different emotions, being awestruck by the tremendous impact of the journey that he is vicariously made to undergo.
PS. Gone with the Wind is undoubtedly one of cinema's greatest marvels and is a living testament to cinema's timelessness, and its limitless potential. A must watch for everyone. 10/10