17 December 2001 | lora64
Exquisite romance, like fine china
If I may say so this film is one of the most haunting and lovely romances ever on screen - ghost and all. Once you step back in time into that prim, Victorian world it is hard to turn away. That's what makes for great movies.
Gene Tierney is perfect in her role as Lucy, a young widow, very strong-willed and with a mind of her own. She decides to leave the home and relatives of her late husband to find a new life of independence for herself and her daughter. She is shown "Gull Cottage" by an agent and is determined to rent the seaside cottage although it's known to be haunted by the ghost of a sea captain.
Eventually, once settled into her new surroundings, she is confronted by the apparition of Captain Daniel on a blustery stormy night. Their acquaintance does not get off to an easy start but he decides she can stay and won't trouble her with his houndings which would have ordinary people put to flight and making a hasty retreat. Her amusing exchanges with the captain, played by Rex Harrison, are a delight. I particularly liked her expressions which were corrected by him, such as: (she describes) sheets bellying in the wind, (he, correcting her) sails billowing; (she, in a flurry for him to be gone, asks him to) decompose, (he haughtily retorts) dematerialize, madam!
When she develops an interest in a certain outsider, Miles Fairley, suitably performed by that perennial ladies' man, George Sanders, well the captain becomes very annoyed and tells her, "I said you should see men, not perfumed parlor snakes," which I thought was amusing and a very apt description.
I think the overall tone of the story tends to confirm a universal belief in an afterlife form of existence, a conviction as old as mankind itself. However, in this story the emphasis gradually shifts to supplanting the experience of a ghostly dialogue exchange with that of a dream state as being the source of reality, in effect Lucy dreamed it all, even the writing of the book, which is something I would question but that's another matter.
The exquisite music throughout the film sets the mood beautifully in expressing the many changes varying from haunting, romantic atmosphere to frolicsome (when the captain is up to his pranks), as well as the churning turbulence of the majestic waves along the shore.
I've recently acquired the DVD and appreciate having the subtitles now which brings out more details of the dialogue. This is a very special movie one doesn't easily forget, and so well done, pure artistry on film.