Olivia (1951)

  |  Drama


Olivia (1951) Poster

Olivia, an English teenager, arrives at a finishing school in France. The majority of the pupils in the school are divided into two camps: those that are devoted to the headmistress, Mlle ... See full summary »


7/10
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30 May 2019 | jromanbaker
9
| Stark times
This film, based on Dorothy Bussy's short novel, appeared on the screens when homosexuality was almost as taboo in the cinema as everywhere else in our so called civilized world. But at least France made it-and by a great female director who understood Sartre's play 'Huis Clos' better than almost any stage director. There is a lesbian character in 'Huis Clos' and arguably the lesbianism is more explicit in Sartre's play than in 'Olivia'. But ... Hell is going down in a lift to Hell? Even Sartre did not think of that incredible detail!

I am giving away no spoilers in this review, only to urge those who can, to see this film. It is set in a girl's school. Although no one could classify Simone Simon straight out of 'La Ronde' as a girl-they are young women. The acting is superb all round, and the images and dialogue perfect.

So why is this film hidden away? Why no DVD and only a long lost VHS tape to be found if you are lucky on Ebay? I have the video and have treasured it for years. And why the dreadful title 'The Pit of Loneliness', except to tempt and to suggest to people that this is all about 'perversion'? Trust America to do that at the height of homophobia back in the early 1950s! England at least released it with the title 'Olivia' but the film soon disappeared, lost in double feature programmes.

Such stark times should be behind us, but for some reason this classic is not deemed worthy of respect. There are no sexual acts in the film. It is an examination of feelings. In 2019 it should no longer be put into the darkest corner of cinema history. Perhaps, after all, these are still stark times.

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