27 June 1999 | Rosabel
An old-fashioned Freudian drama
This is a great old film, with James Mason at his best as the brooding, aloof, complicated hero/villain. It contains a lot of cliches, not least of which is Hollywood's fervent faith in the almost occult power of hypnosis and psychiatry. But it also is full of great moments - the black and white photography seems to sing along with the glorious music. The scene where James Mason, from offstage, watches Ann Todd all alone at her piano, glowing in bright stage light against a blank background is superb. Sound and picture come together perfectly, and Mason's acting matches beautifully, as he expresses emotion struggling through layers of impassivity. The ending might seem a little dated to present-day audiences, with its implication that the heroine can be fully healed of her psychic wounds only by giving herself to one of her three suitors, but for those who like good old-fashioned happy endings, this is a fine one. Only one thing seemed rather obviously ridiculous: in the scene where the German psychiatrist is talking to the German painter who is in love with Francesca, they both carry on a long conversation in heavily-accented English, which becomes a bit comical once you realize how much more natural it would be for them just to speak German to each other.